SC refers ban on women's entry at Sabarimala to constitutional bench

SC refers ban on women's entry at Sabarimala to constitutional bench

The Supreme Court will on Friday pronounce verdict on whether to refer to a Constitution Bench a bunch of petitions challenging the age-old practice in Kerala's famed Sabarimala temple to restrict entry of women of a certain age.

In January 2016, the Supreme Court had questioned the ban and said that this can not be done under the Constitution, following which, in February, the top court reserved an order on referring the case to a constitution bench.

The temple prohibits women aged between 10 and 50 from undertaking pilgrimage to Sabarimala - which means women are banned from even making the arduous trek to the shrine. In November a year ago, after the Left government took charge in Kerala, there was a U-turn by the state government from its earlier stance and the affidavit stated that it was ready to allow women of all ages to enter Sabarimala.

Subsequently, when the case had come up for hearing in January 2016, the UDF government, which was in power re-considered the earlier stance, and filed an affidavit changing its position on the issue and supporting the ban.

"The temple can not prohibit entry (women), except on the basis of religion".

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A Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan passed the judgment to that effect today.

The case of entry of women of menstruating age to the Sabarimala shrine has seen a prolonged legal journey of over a decade. The Kerala High Court had upheld the Rules and allowed the Devaswom Board to enforce the ban. It said that this can not be done under the Constitution. It said the constitution bench will also deal with the question whether this practice amounted to discrimination against the women. Meanwhile, the apex court had asked all the parties to submit their submissions.

In 2014, the Congress-led government said there was a "mistake" in its own submissions to court earlier and that women can not be permitted in the temple because of the deity's celibacy vows.

The Indian Young Lawyers' Association had approached the SC in 2006 demanding the entry of women of all ages in Sabarimala. "I am sure the judgement will also be very positive and landmark". This violates the rights of the women.

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