Overturning Sabarimala verdict is first pvt bill in LS

Overturning Sabarimala verdict is first pvt bill in LS

The Bill, which seeks to undo a Supreme Court verdict that was seen as a progressive step by a section, will be tabled by RSP's four-term MP N K Premachandran on Friday when the private members business will be taken up in the 17th Lok Sabha. (DH File Pho

Denying entry of women aged 10-50 years in Sabarimala temple in Kerala will be the first private members bill to be tabled in the new Lok Sabha.

The Bill, which seeks to undo a Supreme Court verdict that was seen as a progressive step by a section, will be tabled by RSP's four-term MP N K Premachandran on Friday when the private members business will be taken up in the 17th Lok Sabha.

Premachandran, who is part of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), was among the Kerala MPs who opposed the Supreme Court verdict and made it a successful campaign issue during the last Lok Sabha election against the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala.

The Supreme Court had in a majority judgement last year ruled that denying women of menstruating age (10-50 years) entry in Sabarimala as part of customs was violation of fundamental rights to a group of devotees.

According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of Premachandran's Bill, the change in tradition and customs without taking into confidence the special class devotees of Sabarimala temple was not as per constitutional provisions.

It argued that the apex court ruling was a violation of Articles 25 and 26, which deals with freedom to practice any religion and the right of any religious denominations to manage its own affairs, and “created unrest in the mind of devotees,” it said.

The Supreme Court is presently dealing with review petitions on its verdict and the Bill proposes that such orders should not have any impact in the future.

Senior CPI leader and National Federation of Indian Women General Secretary Annie Raja described it as a "feudal and manuvaadi" Bill and said that it was "unfortunate" that the first bill to be introduced in the new Lok Sabha was "anti-women".

"More saddening and serious issue is that this bill that goes against the concept of equality of women is coming from an MP from Kerala, which is considered as a progressive state. It sadly advocates the regressive stand of RSS-BJP. This is an ominous sign of what is in store for future," she told DH.

There has been demands from various quarters, including the BJP, that the government should bring in an ordinance or a law to over rule the Supreme Court verdict. Premachandran's Bill may not come up for debate immediately as such bills are selected through a draw of lots.

Usually, governments are not keen on pushing private members bill. However, with the BJP has raised the issue of a law, it is to be seen whether the Narendra Modi government takes a cue from Premachandran's Bill and introduce an official Bill.

While Kerala witnessed a historic government-sponsored 'women's wall' in support of women's entry in the temple, the issue had snowballed into a political potboiler in which the Left burnt its fingers electorally. The LDF won just one out of 20 seats as the Congress and its allies, which one 19 seats, as well as the BJP launched separate agitations and campaign against the LDF government, which said was just implementing the Supreme Court verdict.

The issue was hotly debated in the run-up to Lok Sabha elections and the UDF managed to reap the benefits as "believers" tilted towards it. BJP, which hoped to cash in on the sentiments, could not win any seat.

In its review, the CPI(M) said that the LDF took a "firm position supporting the Supreme Court verdict" and the stand was correct. It said that neither the CPI(M) nor the LDF government could take a different stand other than to uphold the Supreme Court verdict ensuring gender equality.

"To make use of the confusion among a section of devotees, the Congress, RSS and BJP reversed their earlier position of supporting the Supreme Court verdict and organised a virulent campaign against the party and the LDF government. They were able to wean away a section of our traditional supporters. The entry of two women into the temple after the Women’s Wall programme was also utilised by the UDF and BJP,” the CPI(M)'s 'Review of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019' report had said.

“The impact of this campaign among our supporters varied from area to area. Those alienated from us voted for the Congress or the BJP in varied ways in different constituencies," it added.

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