Sabarimala temple case: SC refers matter to Constitution bench

Sabarimala Temple

Sabarimala Temple

The Supreme Court on Friday referred to its constitution bench the matter pertaining to a ban on the entry of women at Kerala's Sabarimala temple.

Earlier, the bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Ashok Bhushan had reserved its verdict on the plea as it involved important questions of law and the interpretation of the constitution.

The court raised six questions on the issue to be considered by the Constitution bench.

The court was hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) challenging the ban on women's entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the famed Sabarimala temple. The Sabarimala temple restricts women aged between 10 to 50 years from taking the journey to Sabarimala - which implies women are prohibited from making the hard trek to the place of worship. In all other Ayyappa temples in Kerala, other parts of the country and overseas, women are allowed entry without any discrimination.

Kerala's ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had told the court in an affidavit filed in September that it was now in support of entry of women into the temple, reversing its earlier stand on the issue.

The management of the Sabarimala temple had told the apex court that it had banned the entry of women because they can't maintain their "pureness" on account of menstruation. "Unless you have a constitutional right, you can not prohibit entry", the court had said. It said that this can not be done under the Constitution. According to him, banning entry of women would be against the basic tenets of Hindu religion.

Whether the practice of excluding such women constitutes an "essential religious practice" under Article 25 and whether a religious institution can assert a claim in that regard under the umbrella of right to manage its own affairs in the matters of religion? Article 15 of the Constitution places a clear constitutional obligation on the state to not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth. And if they are within the authority of the Act, are they constitutional - particularly, Rule 3 (b), which talks about the entry of women and girls.

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