The Supreme Court on Wednesday began hearing on a batch of petitions challenging its landmarks judgement of allowing women of all ages to enter Kerala's Sabarimala temple complex. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi is hearing 65 petitions including 54 review petitions and 5 fresh writ petitions.
"We have 54 review petitions and 5 fresh writ petitions. There are are some transfer petitions also. We will first hear review petitions," Justice Gogoi said.
K Parasaran for the Nair Service society has begun arguments for reviewing the verdict.
Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra are part of the Constitution Bench along with Justice Gogoi.
The hearing was earlier scheduled on January 22 but it was postponed after Justice Indu Malhotra went on medical leave.
In September last year, the Supreme Court had allowed entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala. The five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict, had said that banning the entry of women into the shrine is gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women.
While Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud concurred with the CJI and Justice A M Khanwilkar, Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting verdict.
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 a secular atmosphere in the country.
She was of the view that it is not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down except in issues of social evil like 'Sati'. Justice Malhotra said the right to equality conflicts with the right to worship of devotees of Lord Ayyappa. She said the issue in this case not limited to Sabarimala only. It will have far-reaching implications for other places of worships.
The judgement had sparked a massive protest by devotees of Lord Ayyappa – a celibate - in several parts of Kerala with several women of all ages participating in it. According to them, the judgment was against culture and tradition. They also demanded that the agama (scriptures) traditions be followed in the shrine of Ayyappa.
Meanwhile, the Kerala Government – who has been facing widespread criticism over errors in the list of women who prayed at the Sabarimala Temple – has decided to re-prepare the list.