Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the bench which ruled on the entry of women into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala on Friday, dissented with the majority judgment and said issues that have deep religious connotations should not be tinkered with to maintain secular atmosphere in the country.
While the five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict, said that banning the entry of women into the shrine is gender discrimination and violates rights of Hindu women, Justice Malhotra said it is not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down except in issues of social evils like 'sati'.
Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud concurred with the CJI and Justice AM Khanwilkar.
Justice Malhotra said, "India has diverse religious practices and constitutional morality would allow anyone to profess and practice a religion she/he believes in and it is not for the court to interfere in such religious practices, even if it may appear discriminatory," News18 reported.
Justice Malhotra also said right to equality conflicts with right to worship of devotees of Lord Ayyappa. She added the issue is not limited to Sabarimala only, but it will have far reaching implications for other places of worship. She also said notions of rationality cannot be brought into matters of religion and equality doctrine cannot override fundamental right to worship under Article 25.
One of the contentions before the court was whether the devotees of Lord Ayyappa formed a separate religious denomination or not. CJI Misra said devotion cannot be subjected to discrimination and patriarchal notion cannot be allowed to trump equality in devotion while adding that the devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate denomination.
However, Justice Malhotra ruled that "respondents have made out a strong case for Ayyappa devotees being a separate denomination" and stated that "a 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," according to News18.
Justice Nariman said the Sabarimala temple custom barring women between the ages of 10 and 50 is not backed by articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Justice Chandrachud said religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women and is also against human dignity. He said prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Sep 28, 2018 17:23 PM