The nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde will hear a batch of 60 petitions (Photo Credit: PTI File)
A nine-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to commence hearing a batch of pleas on the issue of allowing women of all ages to enter Kerala's Sabarimala temple on Monday. The bench will hear the matter along with other contentious issues of alleged discrimination against Muslim and Parsi women.
The nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde will hear a batch of 60 petitions. The other judges on the bench are Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant.
According to India Legal, the two major questions of law that the top court is likely to address in the reference are: 1) Whether the “essential religious practices” of a religious denomination or even a section thereof are afforded constitutional protection under Article 26, and 2) What would be the permissible extent of judicial recognition to PILs in matters calling into question religious practices of a denomination or a section thereof at the instance of persons who do not belong to such religious denomination?
The nine-judge bench has been set up after a five-judge bench headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, by a 3:2 majority verdict, referred the matter to a larger bench while examining the review petition filed against the historic September 28, 2018 judgement which had allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple. Besides Justice Gogoi, Justices A M Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra (the lone woman judge on the bench) were in majority while Justices R F Nariman and D Y Chandrachud had penned down a minority verdict on November 14, 2019.
While referring the matter to a larger bench, the five-judge bench had however said that the debate about the constitutional validity of religious practices like bar on entry of women and girls into a place of worship was not limited to the Sabarimala case. The top court said such restrictions are there with regard to entry of Muslim women into mosques and 'dargahs' and Parsi women, married to non-Parsi men, being barred from the holy fire place of an Agyari. It said it was time for the apex court to evolve a judicial policy to do "substantial and complete justice".
Of the nine-judge bench, which will hear the matter from Monday, there is no judge from the previous bench. The top court had on January 6 issued a notice informing about listing of the batch of petitions seeking review of the 2018 judgement.