Supreme Court Lifts Ban On Entry Of Women Of All Ages Into Sabrimala Temple
Sabarimala Verdict: Women said to be of menstrual age are restricted from entering the temple as its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate.
Women of all ages must be allowed in Kerala’s renowned Sabarimala temple, the Supreme Court ordered today, ending ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years. “The practice of age restriction on women entry to Sabrimala temple can’t be treated as an essential religious practice,” said the court in a majority four-one judgement. The only woman judge on the five-judge constitution bench, Justice Indu Malhotra, has a dissenting view.
Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said devotion cannot be subjected to discrimination and patriarchal notion cannot be allowed to trump equality in devotion.
“Religion cannot be the cover to deny women right to worship. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at Constitutional morality,” he said.
For centuries, women of menstrual age were restricted from entering the temple as its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate. A number of petitions had challenged the restrictions on the entry of women.
“Lord Ayappa is not a separate denomination,” said Justice Misra, who retires as Chief Justice of India on October 2.
“Religion is for one dignity with identity. Right to practice religion available to men and women,” he asserted.
Delivering another in a series of landmark rulings in his last week as top judge, Justice Misra said: “Rules based on biological characteristics will not muster constitution.”
Yesterday, the Supreme Court had scrapped the adultery law saying it went against gender justice.
The head priest of Sabarimala, Kandaru Rajeevaru, said: “We are disappointed but accept the Supreme Court verdict on women entry.”
During the hearings, the Travancore Devaswom Board which runs the over 800-year-old Lord Ayyappa temple, had told the court that the ban is not anti-women and is voluntarily accepted by them. But the top court underlined that the all customary or religious practices such as a ban on entry of women had to conform to constitutional principles.
The board had also urged the top court to steer clear of sitting in judgment on sensitive religious matters.
The Kerala government, which has been changing its stand on the temple ban, had told the Supreme Court in July that it favoured the entry of women.