SC refers Sabarimala review pleas to a larger bench of 7, two dissent

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New Delhi | Published: November 15, 2019 5:44:45 AM

As the court hasn’t stayed its earlier judgment allowing the entry of women/girls of the above age group into Sabarimala, there isn’t any legal bar on such entry.

The SC ruling had led to a political stand-off in Kerala.

The Supreme Court on Thursday referred to a larger bench of seven judges issues that ban entry of women into any house of worship and other religious practices that discriminate against women, including the one that prevented entry of women and girls between 10 and 50 years (menstruating age) into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. As the court hasn’t stayed its earlier judgment allowing the entry of women/girls of the above age group into Sabarimala, there isn’t any legal bar on such entry.

The SC ruling had led to a political stand-off in Kerala. The state government had said it would abide by the SC order and would facilitate entry of women of the specified age group into the hill-top shrine but the Opposition Congress and the state BJP had alleged that the state government was overstepping its brief.

Reiterating that the state government is bound to comply with the Supreme Court orders, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said his government would take legal advice before deciding on its stand after the latest court decision. The annual Sabarimala pilgrimmage season is starting on November 17.

The court said the issue of Muslim women’s entry into durgahs/mosques, case of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community and issue of access to fire temples or ‘towers of silence’ for Parsi women, who marry outside the community, may be “overlapping” and will be clubbed along with the Sabarimala matter and be heard by a larger bench.

The Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi with a 3:2 majority said that “restrictions on women in religious places are not restricted to Sabarimala alone and are prevalent in other religions also”. The split decision came on 65 petitions — 56 review petitions, four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas — which were filed after the apex court verdict of September 28, 2018, sparked violent protests in Kerala.

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