Sabarimala: Devaswom board does U-turn, SC reserves verdict
New Delhi, Feb 06: The Supreme Court Tuesday has reserved orders on a batch of pleas seeking review of its verdict which allowed entry of women of all age groups into Kerala's Sabarimala temple.
At the start of the hearing the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi said that there are 54 review petitions in all in addition to 3 to 5 writs. The central issue is reconsideration of the judgment.
During the course of the hearing the Travancore Devaswon Board said that it supported the entry of women of all age into the temple. Text and scriptures do not speak of exclusion of women or the practise, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi representing the board said.
When the court reminded him that the board had earlier argued against the entry of women, Dwivedi said that they had decided to respect the verdict. Equality is a dominant theme under the constitution and the practise violates equality, he also said. Spirit of the judgment is equal treatment to a man and women, he further added.
Opening arguments, senior counsel, K Parasaran said that there is an error on the face of record of the Sabarimala verdict. Article 15 (2) prohibits discrimination in access to public institutions of secular category and not of religious category. There were 3 failed attempts to amend Article 15 to include places of worship, he further said.
Appearing for the Sabarimala thanthri, senior advocate V Girl said that the thanthri is the father of the deity. Every deity has a character. The Sabarimala deity, unlike in another Ayyappa temples has a peculiar character of a Naishtika Brahmin.
Every devotee has a fundamental right to worship in a temple in a manner which is in sync with the character of the deity, Giri further added. Constitutional morality does not flow from a text. It was evolved in recent times. Exclusion of women of menstrual age is not based on immorality, but on the essential religious practice that the Sabarimala deity is a permanent celibate, he further added.
He further said that he agreed with the argument advanced by Parasaran that exclusion in Sabarimala is not based on untouchability. It is an essential religious practice that the deity is a celibate, which even women in the age group of 10 and 50 believe. The essential religious nature of the Sabarimala deity is affirmed, perpetuated everyday by the offerings, pujas conducted in the temple. All this rests on this unique character of the deity. Exclusion of women of a certain age is nothing on moral or immoral, he also contended.
Senior advocate, Shekhar Naphade asked, " what is the effect of your judgment. It is a mandamus given to a particular religious community that you shall not hold this belief. Some believe in God, others like Stephen Hawkins did not. You cannot tell people not to believe in a particular deity. The community alone will decide if centuries' old belief need to be followed or not. Few activists do not get to decide that, he also said.
Senior advocate R Venkatramani said that Sampradhaya should not be decided by the Supreme Court. Senior Advocate A M Singhvi said that Hinduism is the most diverse religion on this planet. And here you want to allow only essential religious practices which are universally ethical to all Hindus. Is it possible. Surely that is not the right approach in a diverse religion, he also said.
The Kerala government however objected and said that the review petitions are not maintainable in law. The judgments have reached a conclusion that the Ayyappas are not a denomination. Nothing has been made out so far to deserve a review. Non consideration of an argument is not a ground for review. It is left to the court whether an argument is essential or not, senior advocate, Jaideep Gupta, appearing for the state said.
On September 28, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in 4:1 verdict had paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination.
There are around 54 petitions seeking review of the judgement and they were filed following the recent violent protests in favour and against the verdict.