Upholding the right to equality, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter into Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala. In a 4:1 majority, the SC struck down the provisions of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 that banned the entry of women in age group 10-50.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra while terming selective ban on women as religious patriarchy said, “Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump right to pray and practise religion. Any rule based on biological characteristics cannot pass muster of constitutional test. Ayyappa devotees do no constitute a separate religious denomination.”
Justice Chandrachud, in his opinion, said the ban is a form untouchability. He further added, “Religion cannot be a cover to deny women right to worship. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at Constitutional morality. Physiological features cannot be a ground for denial of right.”
Relationship with God can’t be defined by biology: SC lifts women entry to Sabarimalahttps://t.co/1a8vQSP421
— Deccan Chronicle (@DeccanChronicle) September 28, 2018
“The ban says presence of women deviates from celibacy. This is placing the burden of a men’s celibacy on women. Stigmatises them, stereotypes them.”
Justice Indu Malhotra presented a dissenting view. She said that the petition does not deserve to be entertained.
She said the issue raised will have ramifications on other places of worship too. The issues of deep religious sentiments shouldn’t be ordinarily interfered into.
Justice Indu also mentioned that it is for the worshippers and not the court to decide what is religion’s essential practice. She said, “Issues of deep religious sentiments should not be ordinarily be interfered by the court. The Sabarimala shrine and the deity are protected by Article 25 (right to worship) of the Constitution of India and the religious practices cannot be solely tested on the basis of Article 14 (right to equality).”
“Balance needs to be struck between religious beliefs on one hand and cherished principles of non-discrimination and equality laid down by Constitution on the other.”
The judgement came on petitions challenging the ban on entry of women of menstrual age in the Sabarimala temple which was upheld by the Kerala High Court.