Irrespective of age, women can enter Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple, rules SC

The Supreme Court of India ruled Friday that women, irrespective of age, can enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said that the provision in the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which authorised the restriction, violated the right of Hindu women to practice religion.

The bench, also including Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, also said that patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump the right to pray.

Justice Malhotra gave a dissenting judgment, stating, “the issue is critical to various religions. Issues of deep religious sentiments should not be ordinarily be interfered by the Court. The Sabarimala shrine and the deity is protected by Article 25 of Constitution of India and the religious practices cannot be solely tested on the basis of Article 14.”

“Notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion,” Justice Malhotra said. “What constitutes essential religious practice is for the religious community to decide, not for the court. India is a diverse country. Constitutional morality would allow all to practise their beliefs. The court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion.”

Reacting to the verdict, the Travancore Devaswom Board president has said he will file a review petition. The TDB manages the Sabarimala temple. “We will go for a review petition after getting support from other religious heads,” A Padmakumar is quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Earlier, the provision which banned women from entering the temple had been challenged by a number of petitions. The ban was upheld in the Kerala High Court. The HC 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 in court that the tradition is discriminatory in nature and stigmatised women, and that women should be allowed to pray at the place of their choice.

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