The Supreme Court bench hearing the contentious Sabarimala entry case today asked several pointed questions to the temple management –Devaswom Board-- when it said that the ban on entry of females aged between 10 and 50 years was because they cannot maintain purity for 41 days on account of menstruation
How can periods be linked to purity”, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra asked Senior Advocate K K Venugopal, representing the Devaswom Board when he said the ban was not discriminatory but based on reasonable classification
“What is the fulcrum of classification. Tell us”, the bench then retorted.
At the outset, Venugopal said women and men both are allowed entry into the temple and hence, there is no case of gender discrimination and females of a particular age group are not allowed due to the centuries-old custom. There are as many as eight Lord Ayappa temples in Delhi and NCR region and women are allowed inside, he said, adding that the Sabarimala temple is different. Women are allowed inside in Sabarimala also, but they cannot climb eighteen sacred steps on the hill unless they maintain 41 days of purity, he said, adding that the High Court verdict, favouring the practice, is a judgment in rem (continuity) and the apex court should not re-examine it by entertaining a PIL. The arguments remained inconclusive and would resume on May 2.
The court is hearing a PIL, filed by Indian Young Lawyers' Association seeking entry of women into the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Kerala's Pathanamthitta District
On Apriil 18 the court had said the Ban on entry or women cannot be bracketed with issues relating managing of religious affairs as gender equality is a constitutional message
“Gender equality is a constitutional message and they (temple management) cannot say that this (banning women) comes under their right to manage religious affairs, Justice Dipak Misra said.
The bench reiterated that it would test the so-called customary practice under the provisions of the Constitution.
At the outset, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for NGO 'Happy to Bleed' which is seeking women's entry into the historic shrine in Kerala, said the law was meant for removal of social ills and constitutional principles would prevail over discriminatory customs and beliefs.