SC terms as impossible condition of observing abstinence before visiting Sabrimala temple

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New Delhi | Published: July 19, 2018 5:09:55 PM

The Supreme Court today termed as impossible the condition of observing abstinence for 41 days before undertaking a pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala and said that this had led to the ban on the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years into it.

supreme Court, dipak misra, Sabarimala temple case, Kerala, women entryA five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which is hearing petitions challenging the ban, said that it is the devotion which makes a woman to visit a temple.

The Supreme Court today termed as impossible the condition of observing abstinence for 41 days before undertaking a pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala and said that this had led to the ban on the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years into it.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which is hearing petitions challenging the ban, said that it is the devotion which makes a woman to visit a temple.

The observations by the bench came when senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Devaswom Board which runs the over 800-year-old Lord Ayyappa temple, said that it is only shrine in the world which observes the belief that women in the menstruating age should not be allowed inside it.

The senior lawyer submitted that people from all castes and religions can visit the temple and only women in that particular age group are not allowed into it because of the simple reason that it is impossible to observe abstinence for 41 days before undertaking the pilgrimage. “This is imposition of an impossible condition that one has to observe a 41-day abstinence period. What you cannot do in law is being done by imposing this condition,” the bench, also comprising justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, said.

At the outset, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, said that the exclusion of women in that particular age group was akin to untouchability which was prohibited under Article 17 of the Constitution. “We are talking about the exclusion on the basis that menstruating women are impure. I seek expansion of Article 17 of the Constitution,” he said.

The Kerala government, meanwhile, told the court that it supported the entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple. The arguments in the matter remained inconclusive and would resume on July 24. The apex court had yesterday observed that the fundamental right of freedom to practice religion is provided to “all persons” by the Constitution and the women have the right to enter and pray like men at the shrine.

The bench had also termed as “absurd” the notification of Devaswom board banning entry of women in the 10-50 age group. The plea challenging the ban has been filed by petitioners Indian Young Lawyers Association and others.

The apex court had on October 13 last year referred the issue to a Constitution bench after framing five “significant” questions including whether the practice of banning entry of women of that particular age group into the temple amounted to discrimination and violated their fundamental rights under the Constitution.

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