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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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Who: Supreme Court
What: Allows entry of women
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