Sabarimala temple case: Supreme Court refers matter to Constitution bench

Sabarimala Temple

Sabarimala Temple

Challenging the ban on women's entry in Sabarimala temple in Kerala, the Supreme court will deliver is verdict on the petitions on Friday.

In February 2017, the Court reserved an order on referring the case to a constitution bench.

On 11 January, the court had questioned the ban, saying this can not be done under the Constitution.

The management of the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Pathanamthitta district, had earlier told the top court that the ban on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years was because they can not maintain "purity" on account of menstruation. In all other Ayyappa temples in Kerala, other parts of the country and overseas, women are allowed entry without any discrimination.

The Travancore Dewaswom Board that manages Sabarimala Ayyappa temple justified the restriction on the entry of women on the grounds that the deity, Lord Ayyapa, is a "Naisthik Brahmachari" (celibate) and said that 1,000-year-old custom and religious practice can not be interfered with.

Another women's rights activist is also hoping that the SC rules in the favour of the women as India is a secular country.

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The court is hearing a plea challenging the practice of banning entry of such women in the temple. According to them, banning the entry of women would be against the basic tenets of Hinduism. It said that this can not be done under the Constitution.

Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal appearing for the Travancore Davaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala temple, had requested the bench to the matter to a constitution bench.

That is, if the Sabarimala devotees are considered a separate denomination, then does this denomination have a right to ban the entry of women and girls?

"Hoping a positive verdict, the women rights activist Brinda Adige had told Asian Age that for last few months, the SC had been giving positive, landmark and progressive verdicts".

The Supreme Court has, in the past, termed illegal traditional and religious practices that violate the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution. The temple's rules are ultra vires the state Act which allows equal access to women to all public places such as temples.

In 2008, the LDF government had filed an affidavit before the apex court supporting the entry of women of all age groups to Sabarimala, which bars women of menstruating age.

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