Women of all ages can enter Sabarimala temple: Supreme Court

New Delhi:  In another landmark judgment, the Supreme Court this morning allowed women, irrespective of their age, to enter Kerala’s  Sabarimala temple.

A five-member Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices Rohinton Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra, in a 4-1 majority, struck down the “Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965” that banned women between the age of 10 and 50 from the temple. The practice had been in place for centuries.

Justice Malhotra, the lone woman on the Bench, had a dissenting view. Delivering the judgment, CJI Misra said Ayyappa devotees do not constitute a separate religious denomination. “Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump right to pray and practice religion. Any rule based on biological characteristics cannot pass muster of Constitutional test,” CJI Misra said.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) had argued that they should be allowed to make the rules for the Sabarimala temple as they form a denomination.

Justice Chandrachud said, “Religion cannot be cover to deny women right to worship. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at Constitutional morality. Physiological features cannot be a ground for denial of right.”

Justice Malhotra said, “What constitutes essential religious practice is for the religious community to decide not the court. Notions of rationality cannot be brought into matters of religions.” She went on to say, “Balance needs to be struck between religious beliefs on one hand and cherished principles of non-discrimination and equality laid down by Constitution on the other.”

Justice Malhotra further stated that the present judgment won’t be limited to Sabarimala, it will have wide ramifications and that issues of deep religious sentiments shouldn’t be ordinarily interfered into.

A. Padmakumar, president of TDB said they will file a review petition after securing support from other religious heads.

The judgment came over a clutch of petitions challenging the ban, which was upheld by the Kerala HC. The High Court had ruled that only the “Tantri (priest)” was empowered to decide on traditions. The petitioners, including Indian Young Lawyers Association and Happy to Bleed, argued that the tradition is discriminatory in nature and stigmatised women and women should be allowed to pray at the place of their choice.

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