Supreme Court reserves judgement on the pleas against ban on entry of...

Supreme Court reserves judgement on the pleas against ban on entry of women in Sabarimala temple

In the year 2006, Indian Young Lawyers Association through its General Secretary,Bhakti Pasrija Sethi and a group of lady lawyers including Laxmi Shastiri, Prerna Kumari, Alka Sharma and Sudha Pal filed a PIL through their counsel Ravi Prakash Gupta challenging the ban on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 to the Lord Ayyapa temple at Sabarimala, Kerala.

A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India on Wednesday i.e. 1.8.2018 reserved its judgement on the contentious issue of ban of entry of women in Lord Ayyapa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala. The bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra also comprised of Judges R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.The bench directed the Advocate on record of both sides to submit a compilation of written submissions within seven days.

The apex court had on October 13 last year (2017) referred the issue to a Constitution bench after framing the following five “significant” questions for consideration:

1) Whether the exclusionary practice which is based upon a biological factor exclusive to the female gender amounts to “discrimination” and thereby violates the very core of Articles 14, 15 and 17, and not protected by ‘morality’ as used in Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution?

2) Whether the practice of excluding such women constitutes an “essential religious practice” under Article 25 (freedom to practice and propagation of religion) and whether a religious institution can assert a claim in that regard under the umbrella of right to manage its own affairs in the matters of religion?

3) Whether Ayyappa Temple has a denominational character and, if so, is it permissible on the part of a ‘religious denomination’ managed by a statutory board and financed under Article 290-A of the Constitution of India out of Consolidated Fund of Kerala and Tamil Nadu can indulge in such practices violating constitutional principles/ morality embedded in Articles 14, 15(3), 39(a) and 51-A(e)?

4) Whether Rule 3 of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules permits ‘religious denomination’ to ban entry of women between the age of 10 to 50 years? And if so, would it not play foul of Articles 14 and 15(3) of the Constitution by restricting entry of women on the ground of sex?

5) Whether Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 is ultra vires the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965 and, if treated to be intra vires, whether it will be violative of the provisions of Part III of the Constitution?

The Kerala government, which has been changing its stand on the contentious issue of women of a particular age group entering the Sabarimala temple, had on July 18 told the Supreme Court that it now favours their entry.

Ms.Bhakti Pasrija Sethi, the petitioner in the matter told us that many people still ask her the reason of filing the petition challenging the ban on entry of a particular age group of women in Lord Ayyappa temple, Sabarimala. She said ‘What triggered her group to file this petition in 2006 was a particular incident which was flashed all over in Media.’ In 2006, it was reported by many newspapers and the electronic media that a south Indian actress Jaimala ji visited the Sabarimala temple and therefore purification of the temple was carried out. Naturally Bhakti’s  reaction was…How can a temple become impure upon entry of a woman? It was totally unacceptable and derogatory. Consequently the petition was filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Ms.Pasrija further said that she is glad that a comprehensive debate has taken place on the issue and the Hon’ble Supreme Court gave an opportunity of hearing to each and every person who wanted to express his views on the matter. The issue has been deliberated threadbare over the last 15 days and  we will welcome the judgement of the Hon’ble Court.

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