SC allows women to enter Sabarimala temple, calls ban derogatory.

Supreme Court says banning entry of women to Kerala’s Sabarimala temple is gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women.


The Supreme Court on Friday allowed women entry into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Girls and women of menstruating age—10-50 years—were not allowed in the premises of the temple, which houses Lord Ayyappan.

Recognizing that banning women from entering the temple was derogatory to them, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar on behalf of himself and Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, “Morality cannot be viewed with a narrow lens. It has to be in harmony with the Constitution. Patriarchy and religion cannot topple the power of devotion.”

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, in his separate but concurring judgment, was of the view that religion could not become a cover to exclude and deny right to worship to women. He also added physiological factors could not be used to deny such rights.

The sole dissenting opinion by Justice Indu Malhotra held that it was not for the courts to determine if these practices should be struck down. “What constitutes an essential religious practices is for the religious community/denomination to decide,” she said.

She added that constitutional morality called for harmonization by balancing all such rights relating to religion so that religious beliefs of none were undermined.

The court was ruling on a public interest litigation filed in 2006 by non-profit body Indian Young Lawyers’ Association, seeking entry for women and girls to the Sabarimala shrine.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, counsel appearing for the Travancore Devaswom Board, had justified the restriction and said the ban had a “historical origin” as the entry of women and girls of menstruating age was antithetical to the “Naishtika Brahmachari” (celibate) nature of the deity.

Women all across the country are restrained from entering any temple during menstruation, Singhvi submitted, adding that the ban on entry was justified as it was physiologically impossible for women to observe the 41-day penance for the deity.

In January, the court had questioned the ban, saying this cannot be done under the Constitution. “The temple cannot prohibit entry (of women), except on the basis of religion. Unless you have a constitutional right, you cannot prohibit entry,” the court had said.

Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had told the court in an affidavit filed in September that it was now in support of entry of women into the temple, reversing its earlier stand on the issue. The state of Kerala had supported the entry of women of all ages inside the shrine.

In 2008, the LDF government had filed an affidavit before the apex court supporting the entry of women of all age groups to Sabarimala. (Source: Livemint)

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