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Whether to Permit Women Entry to Sabarimala Temple or Not: SC Constitution Bench To Hear From Tomorrow

Manu Sebastian
16 July 2018 6:28 AM GMT
Whether to Permit Women Entry to Sabarimala Temple or Not: SC Constitution Bench To Hear From Tomorrow
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From tomorrow, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will commence hearing on the matter relating to entry of women to Sabarimala temple. It was on October 13, 2017, that a three judges bench of CJI Dipak Misra, Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Ashok Bhushan referred the matter to Constitution Bench, raising the following issues :

  1. Whether the exclusionary practice which is based upon a biological factor exclusive to the female gender amounts to "discrimination" and thereby violates the very core of Articles 14, 15 and 17 and not protected by ‘morality’ as used in Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution?

  2. Whether the practice of excluding such women constitutes an "essential religious practice" under Article 25 and whether a religious institution can assert a claim in that regard under the umbrella of the right to manage its own affairs in the matters of religion?

  3. Whether Ayyappa Temple has a denominational character and, if so, is it permissible on the part of a 'religious denomination' managed by a statutory board and financed under Article 290-A of the Constitution of India out of Consolidated Fund of Kerala and Tamil Nadu can indulge in such practices violating constitutional principles/ morality embedded in Articles 14, 15(3), 39(a) and 51-A(e)?

  4. Whether Rule 3 of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules permits 'religious denomination' to ban entry of women between the age of 10 to 50 years? And if so, would it not play foul of Articles 14 and 15(3) of the Constitution by restricting entry of women on the ground of sex?

  5. Whether Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965 is ultra vires the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965 and , if treated to be intra vires, whether it will be violative of the provisions of Part III of the Constitution?

The reference has been made on writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India by Indian Young Lawyers Association contending that the restriction imposed on the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years to Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala is unconstitutional. Senior Advocates Raju Ramachandran and K. Ramamoorthy have been appointed as amicus curiae in the matter.

During the course of the hearing, the CJI-led three judges' bench had asked: "How can menstruation be linked to purity?"

Several groups have intervened in the matter to advance their respective positions on the issue. The NGO "Happy to Bleed" has intervened to oppose the restriction, terming it as an outdated taboo against menstruation. On the other hand, another women group "People for Dharma", which campaigns that real woman devotees are 'ready to wait' until 50 to enter the temple,  has intervened to support the restriction, stating that real devotees do not feel discriminated by the practise.

The newly formed Constitution Bench consists of Chief Justice Dipak Misra,J ustice R F Nariman, Justice A.M Khanwilkar, Justice D Y CChandrachud andJustice Indu Malhotra.

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