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SC refers matter relating to entry of Girls and women of menstruating age in Kerala’s Sabarimala shrine to its five-judge Constitution bench



New Delhi, Oct. 13, 2017 : The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Friday referred the matter pertaining to ban on entry of Girls and women of menstruating age in the premises of the temple, which houses Lord Ayyappan at Kerala’s Sabarimala temple to its five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court to decide several questions under the Constitution.

 

A bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra said the issue of entry of women would be tested against the fundamental rights of Article 14 (equality under law) and Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste etc) of the Constitution of India.

 

The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan passed the order on a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by the Indian Young Lawyers Association challenging the custom of the temple to bar entry of women in the 10-50 age bracket (of menstruating age), saying it was discriminatory.

 

The petitioners also includes the Travancore Devasom Board that manages the temple and women’s organisations

 

The bench of Chief justice Dipak Misra framed several questions to be dealt with by the constitution bench, including whether the temple can restrict women's entry.

 

"Such practices that exclude women from practising their freedom of religion need to be tested against the fundamental rights of the country," Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra while announcing the observation commented.

 

The apex court also framed a question about whether restricting the entry of women at the temple was violative of their rights under the Constitution.

 

It said the constitution bench will also deal with the question whether this practice amounted to discrimination against the women.

 

The larger Bench will decide whether the ban qualifies as an “essential religious practice” of the Hindu faith, over which the court has no jurisdiction.

 

The Constitution Bench will decide whether Ayyappa devotees form a separate religious denomination by themselves.

 

Most importantly the larger Bench will decide if a temple managed by a statutory board can ‘indulge’ in the practice of banning women from entry on moral grounds.

 

The Constitution Bench will decide whether Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 allows a ‘religious denomination’ to ban entry of women between the age of 10 to 50 years. If so, does this amount to discrimination and violation of the fundamental rights to equality and gender justice.

 

Finally, the Constitution Bench has been asked to decide whether Rule 3(b) is ultra vires the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965 and violative of the fundamental rights.

 

The restriction finds its source in the legend that the Sabarimala temple deity – Swami Ayyappa – is a 'Naishtika Brahmachari' – and should not be disturbed.

 

The management of the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Pathanamthitta district, had earlier told the apex court that the ban on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years was because they cannot maintain "purity" on account of menstruation.

 

In Kerala, the state’s LDF government had in 2007 favoured the entry of all age groups of women into the shrine, but the UDF government later opposed this. The LDF, which came back to power in 2016, has returned to its old stand favouring entry.

 

The Kerala High Court had upheld the custom in 1991. Kerala High Court judgment supports the restriction imposed on women devotees. It had found that the restriction was in place since time immemorial and not discriminatory to the Constitution.

 

In February this year, the Supreme Court reserved its order in the matter and asked the concerned parties to file a written submission which should fall under the Constitutional framework.

 

 

 


News Courtesy: PIB | Hindu | DC | LE | LI | LO | IE | LL | PTI | ht | ET | UNI | DNA | FP |Jurist | Last updated: 06:30 pm
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