Women have the right to enter, pray in Sabarimala temple: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued the hearing of the Sabarimala Temple case after a petition was filed challenging the ban on women’s entry into the holy pilgrimage for the Hindus. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra shut down the temple board’s arguments saying that there is no concept of ‘private temple’ and hence the temple ‘can’t deny entry to women’.

The Chief Justice noted that the Sabarimala temple drew funds from the Consolidated Fund, had people coming from all over the world, and thus, qualified to be called a “public place of worship”.

“In a public place of worship, a woman can enter, where a man can go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman,” Chief Justice Misra observed.

The Bench is hearing the question whether the fundamental right of women to pray at the place of their choice can be discriminated against solely based “on a biological factor (menstruation) exclusive to the female gender”. A batch of petitions has challenged the centuries’ old prohibition on women of a certain age from entering Sabarimala temple.

The court also dismissed a third-party intervention in the case.
Senior advocate Indirani Jaisingh told the court that the practice, prohibiting women’s entry inside the temple, is both “illegal” as well as “unconstitutional”.

Later in the day, the Kerala government supported the entry of women inside the temple and added that Devasom board concurs with the state government’s stand.

“State government’s stand is that women should be allowed to offer prayers in Sabarimala Temple. We’ve filed an affidavit in SC explaining our stand. Now it has to take a decision.

We’re bound to obey its verdict. Devaswom board now have the same opinion as government,” K Surendran, a minister in Kerala assembly said.

The hearing on the plea filed by petitioners Indian Young Lawyers Association and others remained inconclusive and would continue tomorrow.

The apex court had on October 13 last year referred the issue to a Constitution bench after framing five “significant” questions including whether the practice of banning entry of women into the temple amounted to discrimination and violated their fundamental rights under the Constitution.

The temple located in kerala, prohibits entry of women who are in their menstruating years. The said ban has statutory backing in the form of Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965.

On October 13, 2017, a 3-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan referred the case to a Constitution Bench.

Earlier today, state minister K Surendran said women should be allowed to offer prayers at the Sabarimala Temple, voicing the longstanding stance of the state’s ruling CPM.