Should Sabarimala Temple open doors to women? SC verdict shortly
New Delhi, Sep 28: The Supreme Court will pronounce its verdict in the Sabarimala case on Friday. Under challenge is the practise at the temple that bars women of the age group of 10 to 50 years.
Going by the observations that the court had orally made during the hearing, it appears as though the centuries old prohibition may be lifted. The Bench had orally observed that a ban on the entry of women at the Sabarimala Temple is steeped in patriarchy and chauvinism.
The court had on October 13 last year referred the issue to a Constitution bench after framing five "significant" questions including whether the practice of banning entry of women in the temple amounted to discrimination and violated their fundamental rights under the Constitution.
One of the questions referred to the larger bench was, "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."
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.
The second issue referred to the constitution bench is whether the practice of excluding such women constitutes an "essential religious practice" under Article 25 of the Constitution 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.
The constitution bench would also deal with whether the 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 out of Consolidated Fund of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to indulge in such practice violating constitutional principles/morality embedded in Articles 14, 15(3), 39(a) and 51-A(e)".
The court had framed another question as to 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," it had said.
Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 says that "women at such time during which they are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall be included in the class of persons who shall not be entitled to offer worship in any place of worship."
It had also raised the question whether this rule 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."
Petitioner Indian Young Lawyers Association and others have sought directions from the court to ensure entry of female devotees between the age group of 10 and 50 at the Lord Ayappa temple at Sabarimala.
On November 7, 2016, the Kerala government had informed the court that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the historic Sabarimala temple.
Initially, the LDF government had taken a progressive stand in 2007 by favouring women's entry into the temple, which was overturned by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) dispensation later.
The UDF government had taken a view that it was against the entry of women of the age group of 10-to-50 years as such a practice was being followed since time immemorial.