Sabarimala Temple: India's Supreme Court lifts ban on women entering shrine

Supreme Court opens Sabarimala Temple gates to women of all ages

Justice Malhotra, the lone woman judge in the bench, passed a dissenting judgement and said that issues which have deep religious connotation should not be tinkered with to maintain secular atmosphere in the country.

Misra and Khanwilkar delivered one of four judgments.

Stating that "law and society are tasked with the task to act as levelers", CJI Misra said "dualistic approach against women degrades the status of women". "Relationship with God can't be defined by biological or physiological factors".

The entry into Sabarimala of women of menstrual age has always been a topic of controversy.

"Religious practices can not exclusively be tested on the basis of the right to equality", said Justice Indu Malhotra, adding that the court should not ordinarily interfere in issues of deep religious sentiments.

However, A Padmakumar, president of the Travancore Devaswom Board, which administers the temple, told on Friday, said that he does not expect many women devotees in the upcoming season. "We feel that the petition will be answered positively".

"Constitutional morality requires the harmonisation or balancing of all such rights, to ensure that the religious beliefs of none are obliterated or undermined".

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In another landmark judgment, the Supreme Court this morning allowed women, irrespective of their age, to enter Kerala's Sabarimala temple. "Restrictions put by Sabarimala temple can't be held as essential religious practice", the CJI added. The decision came after a number of women from the banned age group were detained while entering Sabarimala. "What applies to a man, applies to a woman also", the bench had observed.

Justice Indu Malhotra added that religious practices can't exclusively be tested on the basis of Right to Equality.

India's Supreme Court has overturned a decades-old ban by religious authorities that forbid women from entering one of the holiest Hindu temples in the country. But with the 3:1 verdict throwing open the gates of the temple to women, ending years of discrimination, it is a big win which calls for a big celebration. "Any rule based on biological characteristics can not pass muster of Constitutional test", CJI Misra said. Practices which legitimize menstrual taboos, due to notions of "purity and pollution", limit the ability of menstruating women to attain the freedom of movement, the right to education and the right of entry to places of worship and, eventually, their access to the public sphere.

The hearings went on for eight days this year, after which the court reserved its judgment on August 2.

The temple management had contended in court that they are allowed to frame the rules and that the state should not interfere since an Ayyappa devotee form a denomination.

He said prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries.

To suggest that the mere presence of young women will harm the celibate nature of the deity not only reduces the identity of women to mere sexual objects but also insults the intelligence of the deity Himself by suggesting that He can not handle the burden of His own celibacy, which, as Justice Chandrachud so aptly pointed out, rests on Him.

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