Sabarimala temple case: SC for common policy on religious places like Sabarimala, refers to mosques

Justices D Y Chandrachud and Rohinton Nariman wrote the dissenting verdict and said not following the 2018 SC order is not an option.

In a 3-2 majority, the Supreme Court Thursday referred petitions seeking a review of its 2018 decision to allow the entry of women of all ages in Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple to a larger seven-judge bench.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who will retire this week, said the ban on women’s entry in religious places, is not restricted to Sabarimala alone but was part of a larger debate that includes other religions also. The court also said that a larger bench will decide on religious issues relating to Sabarimala, entry of women into mosques and practice of female genital mutilation in the Bohra community.

Justices D Y Chandrachud and Rohinton Nariman wrote the dissenting verdict and said that not following the 2018 SC order is not an option. Others on the bench included CJI Gogoi, Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Indu Malhotra.

In 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by then CJI Dipak Misra had ruled that banning entry of menstruating women is discriminatory and violates the right to equality.

It said discrimination based on menstruation is akin to practising untouchability as both concepts are rooted in the idea of purity. Justice Malhotra, however, had given a dissenting verdict.

The apex court’s verdict in 2018 had triggered a string of protests across Kerala. Temple custodians argue that women of menstrual age are prohibited from offering prayers as the deity there, Ayyappa, is a celibate. In February, the court had reserved its verdict after a day-long hearing of over 65 review petitions and fresh writ petitions.

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