The Supreme Court on Thursday referred the review petitions against the verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups in Kerala's Sabrimala temple to a larger constitution bench. The top court on Thursday said restrictions on women in religious places was not limited to Sabarimala alone and was prevalent in other religions as well as it referred all review pleas to a larger seven-judge bench. Supreme Court, by a majority of 3-2, has referred the review petitions to a larger constitution bench. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, reading the majority verdict on behalf of himself and Justices AM Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra, said the larger bench will decide all such religious issues relating to Sabarimala, entry of women in mosques and practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community .The CJI said the endeavour of the petitioners was to revive debate on religion and faith.
However, the majority verdict did not say anything adverse against the apex court's September 28, 2018 decision allowing women to enter the shrine nor did it stay the earlier judgement.
While CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice AM Khanwelkar and Justice Indu Malhotra were in favour of sending the matter to the larger bench, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice DY Chandrachud gave dissenting voews.
The Supreme Court was deciding on review petitions including the ones filed against its September 2018 order allowing the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 into the temple. The petitions will remain pending for now.
The activist, who had spearheaded the case against the September 28 judgment, Rahul Easwar says, "This is a victory for us. There is an admission that the earlier judgment should be scrapped. We are proud of SC."
Meanwhile, women's rights activist Trupti Desai, remains hopeful that the September 28 order will not be overturned by the larger bench. "This 3 judge bench is also in favor of women right and I believe that larger bench will also give decision after hearing in women favor," she said.
On September 28 last year, Supreme Court had lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the famous Ayyappa shrine in Kerala by a majority verdict of 4-1. It had held that this centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional. The verdict comes just two days ahead of the Sabarimala Temple reopening for the two-month-long ‘mandalam’ season from November 16.
The SC judgement from September 28 further read: "It is a universal truth that faith and religion do not countenance discrimination but religious practices are sometimes seen as perpetuating patriarchy thereby negating the basic tenets of faith and of gender equality and rights."
The Indian Young Lawyers Association that had raised a contention with the unofficial ban on the entry of women. A five judge bench led by Dipak Mishra had ruled against the ban. In the judgement the bench noted, "The society has to undergo a perceptual shift from being the propagator of hegemonic patriarchal notions of demanding more exacting standards of purity and chastity solely from women to be the cultivator of equality where the woman is in no way considered frailer, lesser or inferior to man."