The Supreme Court’s landmark judgement breaks the 800-year old myth, allowing the women between the age of 10 to 50 to enter the temple. Supreme Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra prounounced the ban on entry of women to the temple as “unconstitutional” .
The judgement of CJI Dipak Misra and Jsutice AM Khanwilkar “Right to worship equally available to men and women,”.
Justice R. Nariman strikes down the Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 and adds, “Ayyappa devotees do not form a denomination but only a part of Hindu worship.”
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud’s judgement says, “To treat women as the children of a lesser God is to blink at the Constitution,”.
Justice Indu Malhotra dissents the verdict raising that, religious practice cannot be solely tested on the basis of Article 14.
“What is essential practice in a religion is for the religion to decide. A matter of personal faith. India is a land of diverse faiths. Constitutional morality in a pluralistic society gives freedom to practice even irrational customs,” Justice Malhotra says in her judgment.
The Supreme Court pronounced verdict based on a batch of pleas seeking permission for women aged between 10 and 50 to enter the 800-year old Sabarimala temple in Kerala. There was four separate judgments by CJI and three justices.
A five-judge bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice RF Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra had reserved the judgment on August 1.
In 2006, the Indian Young Lawyers Association was the first to file a plea in SC seeking scrapping the temple law which restricted women’s entry. In January 2016, the apex court took up the case for hearing after about a decade.
The SC considered whether the exclusion of women (between the 10-50 age group) amounts to “discrimination” and is therefore against the Constitution. Under Article 25, the top court examined whether the exclusion of women is an “essential religious practice.”
Earlier in July of this year, the LDF government of Kerala made it clear that all women irrespective of their age must be allowed to enter Sabarimala temple and the gender discrimination at the temple must end.
It is uncertain since when or why women aged between 10 and 50 are not being allowed to enter the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala. However, finally SC allowed the entry of women belonging to the menstrual age to enter Sabarimala Temple.
Travancore Devaswom Board’s Arguement
The bench has already mentioned on the basis of hearings that the ban on entry of women into the temple is infused in patriarchy and chauvinism.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi had argued on behalf of Travancore Devaswom Board. It had argued that the people from all walks of life, irrespective of caste, creed and religion can enter the temple and it is due to the physiological factors that restricts the women to enter the temple. Women cannot obtain 41 days penance before the pilgrimage. It is repeated that the restrictions finds its source in the ascetic status of the deity and not the patriarchy or chauvinism.
However, the Government of Kerala has expressed its full support to lift of the ban on entry of women to the temple.
The customs of the temple are subjected to constitutional principles and it is argued that the restriction on the entry of women to the temple violates the fundamental rights of women.