Ban on womens entry in Sabarimala: SC refers to consti bench

Sabarimala Temple

The bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Ashok Bhushan had earlier reserved its verdict on referring the case to a constitution bench. The questions included whether the historic temple can restrict women's entry and whether the restriction of entry of women into the temple was violative of their rights under the Constitution.

The petitioners said there is no religious custom in the Hindu religion, especially in Pampa river region, which disallows women entry into temples while they menstruate.

The SC has referred the matter relating to bar on entry of women of 15-50 age group (menstruating age) in Sabarimala temple to a five-judge Constitution Bench on Friday.

It will also examine whether the fundamental rights of women are being infringed upon by the imposition of a ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 by the temple authorities. It said Article 25 of the constitution gives the temple the right to manage its own affairs. He said that the stand of the Travancore Devaswom Board was that women should not enter the Sabarimala temple and they "were are not planning to transform Sabarimala as Thailand".

The CPM-led Left Front government in 2007 had filed an affidavit saying that it favoured entry of women in the temple but this position was reversed in an affidavit filed by the Congress-led UDF government in February 2016. Ironically, Kerala's Sabarimala temple says on its website that it allows people of all religions and castes to pray inside. It said the constitution bench will also deal with the question whether this practice amounted to discrimination against the women.

There was no ban on girls below 10 years and women above 50 years to visit Sabarimala.

The petition argued that the ban, enforced by Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965, was unconstitutional insofar as it violated Articles 14 (equality before law), 25 and 26 (freedom of religion).

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