The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday said that it would hear the review petitions regarding its earlier judgment last month that allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on November 13.
The petitions have been filed by the National Ayyappa Devotees Association (NADA), a voluntary outfit which was not a party to the original case, and by a devotee Jaya Rajkumar.
On September 28, the Chief Justice of India headed bench of the Supreme Court, in a 4-1 verdict, asserted that the temple be open to women of all age, ending the entry ban on women of menstruating age. It said the centuries-old custom at the shrine was not an essential religious practice and “the attribute of devotion to divinity cannot be subjected to the rigidity and stereotypes of gender”. Four of the five judges on the bench — then CJI Dipak Misra, Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud — ruled against the restriction on women while Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting opinion, saying “the religious practice of restricting the entry of women between the ages of 10 to 50 years is in pursuance of an ‘essential religious practice’… notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion by courts”.
Despite the verdict, earlier this week, intense agitations against women entering the temple marked the opening of the Lord Ayyapa shrine. Twelve women in the age groups of 10-50 were stopped by protesters from reaching the temple.
The temple administration had threatened to lock the temple and stop rituals if any tradition would be broken. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) said that it would file a detailed report on the ‘grave situation’ to the Supreme Court.
The temple opened on October 17, the first time after the apex court verdict, and closed on October 22 after the evening prayers.