New Delhi, Sep 28: In a 4:1 majority verdict, the Supreme Court lifted the centuries old ban on the entry of women in the age group of 10 and 50 into the Sabarimala Temple. The majority view comprised Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, Justices A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and R Nariman. Interestingly the dissenting view to continue with the age old practise was by Justice Indu Malhotra the lone woman judge on the Bench.
She said that the 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, Justice Malhotra also said.
However the rest of the judges were on the same page and said that the ban must go.
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 the CJI and Justice Khanwilkar said.
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, Justice Nariman observed.
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, Justice Nariman pointed out.