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Sabarimala temple case: Ban on women unconstitutional, says Kerala Government

Aug 2, 2018 14:16 IST
Sabarimala temple case: Ban on women unconstitutional, says Kerala Government

The Kerala government on August 1, 2018 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.

SC on Sabarimala Case

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 days, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra reserved its verdict on the matter.

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

Kerala Government’s View

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing on behalf of the Kerala government, stated that the custom of barring women between the age group of 10 to 50 years is not permissible under the Constitution.

He 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 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 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 argues that there were many devotees of Shankaracharya who were celibate.

He 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.

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.

Background

The Supreme 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. 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.

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