Sabarimala Verdict: What the five judges of the Supreme Court said
New Delhi, Sep 28: In a 4:1 majority verdict the Supreme Court set aside the centuries old practise that barred the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. The ban on the entry of women in the age groups of 10 and 50 was lifted by the court today.
Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar pronounced one judgment while lifting the ban. Justice R Nariman and D Y Chandrachud penned separate judgments, but had a concurrent view on lifting the ban. Justice Indu Malhotra the lone woman judge on the Bench however had a dissenting view.
Here is what the judges on the Bench said:
CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar:
Devotion cannot be subjected to gender discrimination. The court also said that a patriachal notion cannot be allowed to trump equality in devotion.
Religion is a way of life basically to link life with diversity. They also said that devotees of Ayappa do not constitute a separate denomination.
Women cannot be treated as lesser or weak. He said that in this country women as worshipped like Goddesses. Any physiological or biological factor cannot be given legitimacy if they don't pass the muster of credibility. Exclusion on the grounds of biological, physiological features like menstruation is unconstitutional and discriminatory.
Exclusion of women of a certain age into the temple is not an essential part of religion. It is not integral either, the court said. 3(b) of the Kerala Temple Entry Act which excludes women between the age of 10 and 50 violates freedom of The Hindu religion to worship. The right to worship equally belongs to both men and women. Ban is religious patriarchy.
Justice R Nariman
Ayyappa devotees do not form a denomination, but they are only a part of Hindu worship. Women of all ages are equal worshipers of Lord Ayyappa and hence gender cannot be a ground to prevent the entry of some into the temple on the ground that they were of a menstruating age.
The Sabarimala Temple custom of barring women in the age of 10 and 50 years is not backed by Article 26 of the Indian Constitution. Moreover a woman has an equal right to worship.
Justice D Y Chandrachud:
To treat women as the children of a lesser God is to blink at the Constitution. Popular notions about morality can be offensive to dignity of others. Any custom or religious practise if it violates dignity of women by denying them entry because of her physiology is unconstitutional. To treat women as children of a lesser God is unconstitutional.
Exclusion of a woman because she menstruates is utterly unconstitutional. The court must not grant legitimacy to religious practices which derogate women.
Justice Indu Malhotra:
Issues raised have serious implications for all religions. Issues which have deep religious connotation should be tinkered with to maintain a secular atmosphere in the country.
The right to equality claimed by some conflicts with the right to follow a religious practise, is again a fundamental right.
India has diverse religious practises and constitutional morality would allow anyone to profess and practise a religion she or he believes in and it is not for the court to interfere in such religious practises, even it may appear discriminatory.
The present judgment will not be limited to Sabarimala alone and it will have wide ramifications. Issues of deep religious sentiments should not interfered into.
What is essential practise in a religion is for the religion to decide. It is a matter of personal faith and India is a land of diverse faiths. Constitutional morality in a pluralistic society gives freedom to practise even irrational customs.
Judges cannot intervene and decide on whether a practice is violative of fundamental rights or not. Personal views of judges do not matter. A religious denomination has freedom to believe and even practice even if their beliefs are illogical or irrational.