Declaration of faith to be accepted on face value: SC

Top court decides matter related to inheritance on basis of faith

Hasnaat Malik January 13, 2020
An AFP file photo of the Supreme Court.

ISLAMABAD: Adjudicating a matter related to inheritance on the basis of faith, the top court has ruled that a declaration of faith by one has to be accepted on its face value.

“The question of faith being very personal to oneself and a declaration of faith by one has to be accepted on its face value which of course is not open to challenge from anyone,” says a seven-page ruling authored by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

An unusual matter was raised by a woman before a two-member bench of the apex court comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Shah.

Chanani Begum had challenged decisions by two lower courts, which had rejected her assertion that her sister was a Sunni Muslim, and hence she had a right to succession.

On the death of Anwar Sultan, her property was transferred in the name of her only daughter, Qamar Sultan, on the ground that the deceased professed Shia faith.

The lower courts determined the faith of the deceased on the basis of her statements recorded in previous proceedings — she declared herself to be Shia.

The matter later landed in the apex court, and was accepted for hearing on September 27, 2013. The case proceedings were held in November 2019 with the detailed order published on the website two days ago.

The order said that voluntary declaration of faith in previous proceedings was of great persuasive value after the person’s death, and could be used in subsequent proceedings to determine the faith of such individuals.

Referring to its earlier judgment in Muhammad Bashir case, it noted that no principle of universal application was available to determine the faith of a person, which should be determined keeping in view the surrounding circumstances, the way of life, the parental faith and faith of other kith and kin.

The order said that the other important evidence which persuaded the court in deciding the faith of the deceased was the hoisting of Alam of Hazrat Abbas at the house of the deceased.

The court held that hoisting of Alam was a strong indication that the resident of the house was Shia by faith. However, it added, there was a possibility that the family of the deceased comprised of people having both Shia and Sunni faith.

Even the plaintiff, who claimed to be Sunni by faith, chose not to appear in the witness box, and one of her sons who appeared as her attorney declared himself to be of Shia faith.

The judgement said it was strange and intriguing that the plaintiff’s attorney, despite his close relation (nephew) with the deceased, did not deny two important facts related to the case: Alam of Hazrat Abbas was hoisted at her house, where she also held Majlis.

He also admitted that he often visited Dharnaal, Punjab (the deceased resided there), where the Shia prayed at the Sunni mosque (as there was no Imambargah).

“…we are of the view that the two Courts below have rightly evaluated the evidence of record in coming to the conclusion that the deceased was Shia by faith and we see no reason to interfere with such concurrent findings of fact…,” the order concluded.

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