The Supreme Court was today told by the Kerala government that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the historic Sabarimala temple in the state.
The counsel for the state government, which had earlier supported the ban on women's entry in the temple in its additional affidavit filed in July this year, told the apex court it will now go by its original response filed in 2007 favouring entry of women in the temple premises.
Initially, the LDF government had taken a progressive stand in 2007 by favouring women's entry in the temple, which was over-turned by the Congress-led United Democratic Front dispensation later.
However, the UDF, before losing power to the LDF this year, had taken a view that it was against the entry of women of the age group of 10-to-50 years into the temple as such a practice was being followed since time immemorial.
On being asked as to what is the stand of the state, senior advocate states that the state intends to place reliance on its original affidavit (2007) and not on additional affidavit...women of any age group should not be debarred from entry into the temple to worship the deity, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan said.
The bench also recorded the submission of senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the Travancore Devaswom Board which manages the hill-top shrine, that the state cannot afford to alter its stand as per their convenience.
NEXT HEARING ONLY IN FEB
The bench, which has now fixed the matter for hearing on February 13 next year, said the stand of the government is not the final one as it will take a decision after deliberating upon various aspects including the constitutional provisions with regard to gender equality.
The new stand came at a time when on October 27 a group of women devotees of Lord Ayyappa under the banner of ‘People for Dharma’ moved Supreme Court seeking intervention saying they are not against the traditional customs and restrictions and are ready to wait till the age when they are allowed to enter the temple that is at the age of 50.
They were already running a campaign to preserve 'ancient customs', which they have named #ReadyToWait.” The said campaign started by the Intervenor organization was to counter campaigns popularly known as ‘Right to Bleed’ and ‘Right to Pray’”, said the application filed through advocate Suvidutt M Sundaram
“That the Intervenor organization named ‘People for Dharma’ with thousands of members and followers have started a campaign popularly known as ‘Ready to Wait’. The said campaign started by the Intervenor organization was to counter campaigns popularly known as ‘Right to Bleed’ and ‘Right to Pray’.
That the intervenor organization is making this application seeking indulgence of this Hon’ble Court for permitting them to intervene in the above matter which involves questions that may seriously affect the sentiments and belief system practiced and preached by the Intervenor organization and by its followers”, it says.
They say they understand and respect the temple traditions regarding the entry of young women into the temple and do not want those traditions to be discarded. They are asserting that women devotees of Kerala are ready to wait till they attain the age of 50 years to enter the Sabarimala temple and the demands by non-devotees to discard the tradition in the name of gender equality amounts to the infringement on the religious freedom
“By appointing themselves the champions of the rights of women devotees, what the feminist petitioners actually imply is that the devotees are incapable of fighting for themselves. That’s one kind of classism too. It is a modern version of the White Man’s Burden to civilise unwashed pagans,” said their application.
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