SC judgement on Sabarimala review pleas on Nov 14

The apex court will deliver its judgement on as many as 65 petitions -- including 56 review petitions and four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas -- which were filed after its verdict sparked violent protests in Kerala. (AFP File Photo)

Within days of the Ayodhya verdict, the Supreme Court is set to deliver another judgment with huge ramifications on faith, belief, traditions, and individual rights. The top court is to pass its verdict on Thursday on a batch of review petitions against its decision allowing the entry of women between 10 and 50 years into Kerala's Sabrimala temple.

The issue raised before the court pertained to whether the right of individuals (women) could be allowed in a public place of worship, irrespective of traditions and practices, and whether the devotees of Lord Ayappa could constitute religious denomination within the Article 26 to be given freedom to manage their affairs, among others.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led five-judge bench had reserved its judgment in February this year on 65 petitions filed for the reconsideration of the verdict passed on September 28, 2018, with a majority of 4:1.

Petitioners contended if the constitutional court started to entertain petitions pertaining to faith, custom, practices, and belief, it would virtually open a pandora's box and create pandemonium, as various religious practices of other faiths would be questioned.

The court had then opened the doors of famous Lord Ayappa's temple in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala for all women, particularly of between 10-50 years of age, who were, hitherto, barred on the ground that menstruating women were not pure.

It had said that any rule based on discrimination or segregation of women pertaining to biological characteristics was not only unfounded, indefensible and implausible but could also never pass the muster of constitutionality.

Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge on the bench, however, had dissented saying that restriction on the entry of women to the temple was based on the unique character of the deity, a celibate God, and was not founded on any social exclusion.

She had sounded a note of caution saying in a pluralistic society of diverse faiths, beliefs and traditions, to entertain PILs challenging religious practises followed by any group, sect or denomination, could cause serious damage to the constitutional and secular fabric of this country.

Notably, the Kerala government asked the court to reject review petitions. The Travancore Devasam Board, which managed the temple, changed its stand before the court and supported the judgment.

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