Will Women Get Entry in Sabarimala Temple?

Over a dispatch of petitions for the entry of women in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple which does not allow women between the menstruating years of age between 10-50 to enter in the temple premise, will be heard today by the top court.

A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is set to deliver its verdict on the same.

The petition was first filed in August 2006, since then it has seen different combination of judges, flip-flop verdicts.

The Constitution Bench, prior to pronounce its judgement will probe the five questions framed by the top court. This includes whether the restrictions on women based on biological factors is discriminatory and as a result violates Articles 14 (right to equality), 15 (prohibition of discrimination), 17 (untouchability), and cannot be protected by “morality” based on Articles 25 (freedom to practice and propagation of religion), 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs).

Petitioner Indian Young Lawyer Association, being represented by Ravi Prakash Gupta argued in the court that the bar on entry of women in Sabarimala temple is not the essence of their religious affairs, observing that it is “neither a ritual nor a ceremony associated with Hindu religion”.

The Kerala Government’s stance, which has flip-flopped over the years, declared its support for women entering the temple. Representing the LDF Government, senior advocate Jaideep Gupta submitted that constitutional provisions have to be broadly interpreted. He argued that the State’s right to make laws under Article 25 (2) (b) applies to religious aspects and not just social aspects, reported Bar and Bench. He added that the Sabarimala temple could not be considered a separate religious denomination and therefore could not claim rights as per Article 26.

Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the affairs of the Sabarimala Temple. Pointing to the historical origin of the ban, he argued that the entry of women of menstruating age was antithetical to the celibate nature of the deity.

Appearing for Happy to Bleed, senior advocate Indira Jaising equated the ban on entry of women to Sabarimala temple with the practice of untouchability.  “Prohibition of women entry is a form of untouchability. The sole basis of restriction is menstruation of women. To keep away menstruating women is a form of untouchability. Menstruating women are seen as polluted,” she argued before the Constitution Bench.