Sabarimala : Women Cannot Be Singled Out To Ascertain Genuineness Of Devotion, Kerala Govt Tells HC

Sabarimala : Women Cannot Be Singled Out To Ascertain Genuineness Of Devotion, Kerala Govt Tells HC

Singling out women devotees coming to Sabarimala for ascertaining their genuineness in devotion will amount to hostile discrimination on the basis of gender, said the Govt affidavit

It is not practically possible to ascertain the genuineness of devotion of all the devotees coming to Sabarimala in the absence of prior negative intelligence inputs, the Kerala Government has said in an affidavit filed in the High Court.

The Government affidavit is in response to the queries by the Court last week whether there was any "hidden agenda" in facilitating entry of two women in Sabarimala on January 2.

It was during the wee hours of January 2 that two women aged below 50 years - Bindu and Kanaka Durga- visited the temple, to mark the first occasion of exercise of the right declared by the SC for women of all ages to enter Sabarimala as per its September 28 judgment in the Indian Young Lawyers Association case. In this context, the Division Bench of Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar had voiced suspicions regarding the genuineness of their devotion.

The affidavit sworn by Principal Secretary of the Devaswom Department in response to the queries and observations of the bench has denied any "hidden agenda" behind women entry.

"The State and its instrumentalities including police had only an " open agenda" in the said matter of pilgrimage of two women devotees to Sabarimala on 02.01.2019 and the said open agenda was the implementation of the judgment of the Honourable apex court in the Indian Young Lawyers Association Case, which 'open agenda' was actuated only by the constitutional obligation under Article 144 of the Constitution of India and not by any other consideration, whatsoever", said the affidavit. Denial of permission to the said women to proceed to the hill top shrine would have resulted in violation of their fundamental rights under Articles 14, 15, 17 and 25 of the Constitution of India, stated the Principal Secretary in the affidavit.

The affidavit further states that there was no contrary intelligence report regarding the devotion of the two women. It said :

"the genuineness or otherwise of devotion of a male pilgrim cannot be ascertained by the police. In the said circumstances, any attempt to ascertain the genuineness or otherwise of a woman pilgrim coming to Sabarimala, in the absence of any cogent contrary prior intelligence input, will amount to violation of their fundamental rights conferred under Articles 14, 17 and 25 of the Constitution of India".

The affidavit went on to add :

"..singling out women devotees coming to Sabarimala in exercise of their fundamental rights declared by the Honourable Apex Court, against whom there are no contrary intelligence inputs and ascertaining their antecedents and genuineness in devotion will only amount to hostile discrimination on the basis of gender"

The Division Bench had further asked the Government whether there was any external agency behind the entry of two women. In reply to this, the Government has said that the police has not received any information regarding the involvement of any external agency behind their pilgrimage. Their pilgrimage is not a matter requiring investigation by an external agency, as they have not committed any illegal or criminal act by exercising their right declared by the Supreme Court, said the affidavit.

Responding to the oral observations by Court that day as to whether there was any attempt to violate peaceful atmosphere in the temple, the Government said that the entry of women by itself did not create any law and order problem in Sabarimala or elsewhere.
"The troubles in State were later on fomented purposefully by right wing elements like Sabarimala Karma Samithin, Achara Samrakshana Samiti and other right wing groups and a particular political party for their political ends"
, said the affidavit.
Last week, the Kerala Police had filed an affidavit, opposing the recommendations made by Court appointed observers against grant of special protection to women attempting pilgrimage to Sabarimala.

The HC appointed team of observers comprising retired HC judges P R Raman and Siri Jagan, and Hemachandran IPS DGP had suggested that Police should not give special protection and escort on individual basis in Sabarimala as it causes hardship to other pilgrims.

The affidavit by police also said that the HC appointed team of observers failed to mention in their report the violence unleashed by right wing elements in Sabarimala to prevent entry of women

Read The Affidavit