SC revokes ban on entry of women in Sabarimala

In a 4:1 verdict, the Supreme Court has revoked the ban on entry of women to the Sabarimala temple.

Outgoing CJI Dipak Misra declared that the practice to bar women between 10 to 50 years of age is violative of their fundamental rights and Constitutional guarantees.

In his judgement, Misra said: "Women have been treated with discrimination for long. Religion is a way of life to realise dignity and identity, guaranteed under Article 25(1) of the Constitution, regardless of gender or age and a dualistic approach results in indignity to women".

Justice RF Nariman declared the practice can't be granted protection under Art 26 of Constitution, saying: "women's rights would be meaningless if they are not allowed entry to temples on the biological ground of menstruation. It is violative of Art 25(1) & others".

Justice DY Chandrachud concurred with Misra and Nariman, saying: "Celibacy can't be claimed to deny rights. It can't be used to stigmatise women.  Article 17 occupies a unique position and imposing restrictions on women on the ground of pollution would be a denial of their rights."

Justice Indu Malhotra dissented, saying: "rights to practice is specific to a deity. Religious practices are protected under the Constitution. It is not for the court to decide which practice to strike down. It is outside the ken of court".

ALSO READ: Sabarimala ban on women must go

A Constitution bench of five judges presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had on August 1 wrapped up the eight-day-long hearing in the matter in the petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association and others.

'Disappointing'

The verdict is "disappointing", but the shrine board will accept it, said Sabarimala head priest Kandararu Rajeevarau. Travancore Devaswom Board President A Padmakumar told PTI that the Supreme Court's verdict will be studied in detail and further course of action will be decided after that.

Padmakumar said 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 board, he said, will take steps to execute the apex court directive. It will study the judgement seriously, he said. Rahul Easwar, President of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena, said they were going for a review petition.

Background

The Kerala government, in its contention, maintained that the custom of barring entry to menstruating women into a temple was not permissible under the Constitution, and that even the celibate status of the deity cannot be a ground for barring entry to women, as it is a Hindu temple and not a temple of a particular denomination.

It said that the Constitution was organic and reformist, and if we kept going back to the period of holy antiquity, there will not be any reform.

The state government said that there was 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).

"The Rule can be read in such a manner to the effect that women cannot be excluded," it said.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the intervenors, had contended that the court had always struck down laws, customs, practices or traditions which prevented Harijans from going to temple.

“Similarly, now the court can strike down such laws, practices or customs which deny women the right to enter a temple,” she said.

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SC revokes ban on entry of women in Sabarimala

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