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Sabarimala temple verdict: Supreme Court allows entry of women of all ages

Sep 28, 2018 13:36 IST
Supreme Court allows entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple

The Supreme Court of India on September 28, 2018 allowed the entry of women into the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala. The apex court held that women, irrespective of their age, have the right to enter the temple. The CJI held that biological or physiological reasons cannot be accepted in freedom for faith.

The five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court comprising CJI Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra struck down Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 by a 4:1 majority.It was on the basis of Rule 3(b) that the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years was barred in the Sabrimala temple.

The Judgement: Key Highlights

The bench delivered four separate judgements. While the CJI wrote a judgement on behalf of himself and Justice Khanwilkar, Justices Chandrachud and Nariman both wrote judgements that concurred with the CJI and the lone woman judge on the bench, Malhotra, wrote a dissenting judgement.

Judgement of CJI Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar

The law and society are tasked with the task to act as levellers.Devotees of Ayyappa do not constitute a separate relgious denomination.

Women are not lesser or inferior to man. Patriarchy of religion cannot be permitted to trump over faith.

Biological or physiological reasons cannot be accepted in freedom for faith.

Rule 3(b) of 1965 Rules is a clear violation of right of Hindu women to practice religion under Article 25.

The bar on entry of women between age of 10 and 50 years is not an essential part of the religion.

Religion is basically way of life however certain practices create incongruities.

The right guaranteed under article 25 has nothing to do with gender or physiological factors.

The exclusionary practice given the backing of legislation is not an integral part of religion.

Judgement of RF Nariman

There is no protection under Article 26 for Ayyappa devotees and therefore the rules will not apply as far as Sabarimala is concerned.

There was a submission stating that there should be adducing of evidence. In writ petitions there is nothing called evidence and affidavits constitute evidence.

Rules disallowing women in Sabarimala unconstitutional and violative of Article 21

Morality for the purpose of 25 and 26 is ephemeral in nature. Fundamental Rights under PART III of Constitution is essential for transformation of a society.

Anything destructive of individuality is anachronistic of Constitutionality To treat women as lesser people blinks at the Constitution itself.

Women cannot keep vratham is of the notion that they are meek and weak.

Judgement of Justice DY Chandrachud

Religion cannot be cover to deny women right to worship. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at Constitutional morality.”

Birthmarks and physiological features cannot be a ground for denial of a right.

To suggest that women cannot keep Vratam is to stigmatize them.

Judgement of Indu Malhotra

Issues of deep religious sentiments should not be ordinarily be interfered by the Court.

Sabarimala shrine and the deity is protected by Article 25 of Constitution of India.

Court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion.

Notion of rationality should not be seen in matters of religion.

If there are clear attributes that there exists a section with identifiable characteristics, they constitute religious denomination.

Worshipers of Sabarimala have attributes of religious denomination or sect.

Reaction of Sabarimala Temple Board

Following Supreme Court’s landmark judgement on the entry of women in the Sabarimala Temple, the President of Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), A Padmakumar said that the verdict will be studied in detail and further course of action will be decided after that.

Padmakumar stated that the board will go for a review petition after getting the support from other religious heads. He said that the board had informed the court that they wanted to continue with the existing ritual practices, but now they have no other option but to implement the verdict.

The Sabarimala head priest Kandararu Rajeevarau, while reacting to the verdict, said that it was "disappointing" but the shrine board will accept it.

The Travancore Devaswom Board is an autonomous body formed as per the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act of 1950. The Sabarimala temple falls under the administration of the board.

Kerala Government on Sabarimala Case

The Kerala government on August 1, 2018 had told the Supreme Court that the custom of barring the entry of women between the age group of 10 to 50 years into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala is not permissible under the Constitution.

The state government said that the celibate status of deity cannot be a ground for barring the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. The government argued that it is a Hindu temple and not a temple of a particular denomination.

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing on behalf of the Kerala government, had stated that the custom of barring women between the age group of 10 to 50 years is not permissible under the Constitution. He had said that the Sabarimala temple cannot claim to be a temple for a distinct denomination of people and that it cannot claim a custom that bars entry of women belonging to 10-50 year age group to temple. He argued that it is not a temple of a particular denomination but a Hindu temple.

Further, referring to the arguments of the petitioners who had challenged the ban, Gupta had said that they pointed out that the Kerala high court had held that it is a denominational temple. He argued saying, "It is my submissions, that it is not a denominational temple and the religious rights are not protected.”

Citing an example of Lord Jagannath Puri temple, Gupta had said that it is also not a temple of particular denomination while on the other hand, the temple of Ramakrishna Paramhans is of a particular denomination as he is worshipped by a particular sect. He continued by saying that even Dakshineswar temple in Kolkata, where Ramakrishna Paramhans himself is worshipped, is not a temple of any particular denomination.

Speaking on the celibate status of the main deity of the Sabarimala temple- Lord Ayyappa, the senior advocate said that that it cannot be a ground to bar women's entry into the temple. He argued that there were many devotees of Shankaracharya who were celibate.

He had also said that there is no need to strike down Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which bars women from entering the temple but instead, the rules can be read in such a manner that women are not excluded.

Background

The Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had earlier reserved its verdict after hearing a batch of pleas challenging the ban on the entry of women aged between 10-50 years into the 800-year-old Sabarimala shrine for eight straight days.

The bench also comprised Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

The top court was hearing a batch of pleas filed by petitioners including Indian Young Lawyers Association and others challenging the ban on entry of women between 10-50 years age group in the Sabarimala temple.

The Kerala government, which has been changing its stand on the contentious issue, had told the apex court on July 18 that it favours the entry of women in the temple.

The apex court had referred the matter to a five-judge constitution bench in October 2017 after framing five significant questions including whether the practice of banning entry of women into the temple amounted to discrimination and violated their fundamental rights under the Constitution.

Petitioner’s view

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing on behalf of the petitioners challenging the ban, argued that the court had always struck down laws, customs, practices or tradition which prevented Harijans from going to temple.

Similarly, even this case, the court can strike down such laws, practices or customs that deny women the right to enter temple", she said and added that if the court recognises a custom, then it will have the force of law.

Jaising said that this discrimination between men and women on allowing entry to temple is on the basis of sex and the court cannot avoid this question, as it has always struck down such discriminations. She argued that it is a case of discrimination on the basis of menstruation alone and it is like creating sub-classification even among women; it is not only discrimination between men and women but also between women and women.

“When a man can enter, a woman can also go”: SC on Sabarimala ban

Important Current Affairs of August 2018

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Religion cannot be cover to deny women right to worship. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at Constitutional morality.”

Birthmarks and physiological features cannot be a ground for denial of a right.

To suggest that women cannot keep Vratam is to stigmatize them.

Is this article important for exams ? Yes5 People Agreed

DISCLAIMER: JPL and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.

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