Wait for bench verdict on Sabarimala visit: SC to women

Representative image. (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court on Friday said that women, desirous to visit Kerala's Sabarimala temple, should wait until the seven-judge bench decided on a reference, along with similar contentious issues of Muslim and Parsi women's right to visit a mosque and fire temple, respectively.

"Every woman who wants to go must go. But the situation becomes explosive, we don't want any violence. There is a judgement (of 2018) but it is not the last word," a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice S A Bobde said.

The bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, declined to pass any order on pleas by two women Fathima and Bindu Ammini to allow their entry to Sabarimala temple of Kerala.

"We are exercising our discretion not to pass any order. We know the law is in your favour. Here, it is no question of the right to life or somebody's life being taken away," the bench told senior advocates Colin Gonsalves and Indira Jaising, representing the two women.

Jaising insisted that there was a 2018 judgement, allowing all age group women to visit the temple, but the reference order of November 14 did not stay it.

To this, the bench said, "There is a judgement, no doubt, but there is equally no doubt, that it has been referred to a larger bench. The practice (of not allowing women between 10 and 50 years of age) has continued for thousands of years. For the balance of convenience, we will not pass any order."

Jaising said, Bindu, who is a Dalit and Hindu, on December 2, 2019, entered the temple. She is a believer, she went there in pursuance of her belief. "We send people to jail if they don't comply with our judgement. Here, it is no question of the right to life. It is an emotive issue. It might have led to a reference to a seven-judge bench. Please be patient," the bench said.

Jaising still maintained that the 2018 judgement was not stayed and was still very much the law of the land.

"We are not passing any such order that she can't enter. If they happily allow, she can," the bench said.

The CJI assured that he would endeavour to constitute a seven-judge bench at the earliest. "These matters (application by two women) would be taken up after the decision by the seven-judge bench," the bench said.  

The CJI had earlier too orally observed that the 2018 judgement allowing entry of women all age groups to Kerala's Sabarimala temple was "not last and final" as yet since the matter has been referred to a larger bench.

On November 14, a five-judge Constitution bench referred to a seven-judge bench for deciding questions arising out of a plea for entry of women into Kerala's Sabarimala temple. The court said similar questions related to Muslim women's right to enter 'dargah' and mosque and permission to Parsi women married to a non-Parsi into the holy fireplace of an 'Agyari' and practice of female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohar community would require authoritative determinations.

This judgement was passed on a batch of review petitions and writ petitions against September 28, 2018 verdict, allowing entry of women to the temple.

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