The Supreme Court on Friday referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench a bunch of petitions challenging the age-old practice in Kerala's famed Sabarimala temple of not allowing women aged between 10 and 50 to enter the temple.
The Kerala government informed the court that women of all ages should be allowed entry and worship at Sabarimala Ayyappa temple without any restriction. It said for several centuries, it has been a practice in the temple located in a forest-notified area to restrict the entry of women who are in the age group of 10-50 years as the deity did not want his penance to be disturbed.
"The government's stance is that there should be no gender discrimination with regards to entry in temples, and wold strongly stand with that opinion".
The argument raised by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) in restricting the entry of menstruating women is that the deity is a celibate and that women "are not in a position to observe penance for 41 days due to physiological reasons". It said that this can not be done under the Constitution. According to them, banning the entry of women would be against the basic tenets of Hinduism.
That is, if the Sabarimala devotees are considered a separate denomination, then does this denomination have a right to ban the entry of women and girls?
The bench comprised of Dipak Misra, R Banumathi, and Ashok Bhushan had earlier requested to submit the things that need to be presented at the Constitution Bench.
Welcoming the apex court's move, women rights organisations hoped that the Constitution bench would give women equal rights.
"A temple is a public religious place".
The temple's restriction on menstruating women has been a bone of contention in recent times, raising legal questions about women's right to pray and right to equality, as guaranteed by the Constitution of India.Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees that the state can not deny any person equality before the law or equal protection of the law.
The UDF government had taken a view that they were against the entry of women of the age group of 10-to-50 years as such a practice was being followed since time immemorial.