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What Sabarimala verdict means for Kerala politics

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Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 14: In a 3:2 verdict, the Supreme Court has referred the Sabarimala matter to a larger Bench. The top court did not say anything adverse against its September 28, 2018 decision allowing women to enter the shrine nor did it stay the earlier judgement.

There is no clarity whether women can enter the shrine, which is scheduled to open for worship from November 17.

File photo

While the five-judge bench unanimously agreed to refer the religious issues to a larger bench, it gave a 3:2 split decision on petitions seeking a review of the apex court's September 2018 decision allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala.

An interpretation of today's verdict would mean that the earlier order of allowing women of all age groups into the Sabarimala Temple would remain in force. The majority which referred the matter to the larger bench was silent on whether the earlier judgment would be stayed or not.

Sabarimala: Justice Indu Malhotra who recorded dissent in 2018, today delivered majority verdict

The verdict poses immediate challenge to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is now in a situation to reconsider his tough stand on allowing women to the hill shrine.

    Sabarimala verdict: A closer look at what the fight is about

    The chief minister needs to act quickly as the temple reopens for annual pilgrim season in just two days.

    If not allowed, there are chances of protest by the anti-women's entry protestors, though the law allows women to enter Sabarimala.

    Women's rights activist Trupti Desai, has once again vowed to offer prayers at the Sabarimala temple on November 16, the day, temple portals opens its door.

    Announcing her pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple, Desai also hopes that the larger bench will not overturn the September 28 judgement, and said she will visit the shrine on Saturday.

    Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has issued a warning against the government to not allow women in the temple in the pilgrim season.

    "The state government should exercise restraint. It should not use the lack of clarity regarding stay in the case to facilitate women entry into the shrine," said BJP Kerala leader Kummanam Rajashekaran.

    Activist Rahul Easwar, who had spearheaded the case against the September 28 judgment, said, it is a victory for us. There is an admission that the earlier judgement should be scrapped. We are proud of SC."

    Not just Sabarimala, larger Bench will take account of women’ entry into other religious places too

    "We welcome the SC decision. It's a verdict that gives hope and confidendce to Ayyappa devotees," said Sabarimala's chief priest Kantararu Rajeevaru, also a petitioner in the court seeking review.

    The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which faced the wrath of the people during the recent Lok Sabha polls for its aggressive approach towards allowing women to shrine has to work out a plan carefully.

    It remains to be seen how Vijayan, a staunch defender of women's entry into the shrine would react to the verdict.

    Kerala witnessed violent protests after the LDF government decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict of September 28 last year allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.

    The shrine will be open from November 16 and the annual two-month-long pilgrim season will begin from November 17.

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