Justice Indu Malhotra On Medical Leave, SC Refuses Urgent Hearing On Sabarimala Review Petitions

Justice Indu Malhotra On Medical Leave, SC Refuses Urgent Hearing On Sabarimala Review Petitions

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi turned down the request for an immediate hearing on the many pleas seeking a review of the 2018 verdict of the Supreme Court five-judge bench in the Sabarimala Temple entry case.

On November 13 last year, a bench of Chief Justice Gogoi and Justices R. F. Nariman, A. M. Khanwilkar, D. Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, while refraining from staying the impugned decision, had agreed to hear the nearly 40 review petitions in open Court on January 22, that is, today.

However, when the matter was 'mentioned' by Advocate Mathew Nedumpara on Tuesday, the Chief Justice stated that Justice Malhotra being on medical leave till January 30, it is only upon her return that a fresh date can be fixed for the hearing.

Chief Justice Gogoi had indicated last week itself that it may be unlikely for the constitution bench to consider the review petitions on scheduled date in view of Justice Malhotra's absence, in response to Mr. Nedumpara's request for a live telecast of the proceedings.

The review petitions rely heavily on the dissenting judgment of Justice Indu Malhotra to contend that constitutional parameters of rationality cannot be blindly applied to matters of faith. The review petitions also state that the Court erred in entertaining the PIL without examining the locus standi of the petitioner. It is contended that no woman devotee of Lord Ayyappa would want to visit Sabarimala temple, and hence the Court erred in adjudicating the issue on a petition filed by a party who is totally alien to the temple customs.

Further, it is pointed out that Court wrongly concluded that the basis of prohibition was physiological nature of women. According to the review petitioners,the practise was rooted in the "naishtika brahmachari" character of deity, as per which the deity cannot be in the presence of women. The practise is therefore not derogatory to the dignity of women, states the petition.

The Supreme Court on Friday had directed the state of Kerala to ensure that Bindu and Kanaka Durga, the two women who had entered the Sabarimala Temple on Janaury 2, are provided "adequate security, round-the-clock".

The bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi had awarded an urgent hearing on their petition, after it was mentioned by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, submitting that the women were living under constant fear and that they needed police protection and security from the agitated mob protesting their temple entry.

In view of the other prayers in the petition for a direction that menstruating women between the ages of 10 and 50 years be permitted to access the Temple without any hindrance and that the 'purification' rite carried out in the Temple post the entry of women be discontinued, Ms. Jaising had also requested that this petition be tagged with the pleas for the review of the constitution bench judgment of September 28, 2018.

Declining to allow the tagging, the bench had recorded, "we deem it appropriate to close the present writ petition by directing that the state shall accord adequate security to the petitioners round-the-clock"