While the Supreme Court didn't order a stay on its September 2018 judgment regarding the entry of women into Kerala's iconic Sabarimala temple, the judgment on review petitions for the original order will now be delivered by a larger seven-judge bench, who will examine various the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple, including in mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.
The apex court, in a split verdict of 3:2, observed that restrictions on women in religious places were not restricted to Sabarimala and was prevalent in other religious places of worship too.
Political parties in Kerala welcomed the Supreme Court decision to refer its September order to a larger bench. On 28 September, the bench headed by then-Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra held that women of menstruating age should be allowed into the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.
Hailing the verdict, Leader of the Opposition and Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala welcomed the majority-judge bench decision and asked the Left-led state government "not to create issues" by encouraging the entry of women into the temple.
"Just because there is no stay on the 28 September verdict, the LDF government must try not to create issues by providing security and allowing women to enter Sabarimala. The state government must not implement its earlier agenda of taking women in the banned age group to the hill shrine," he said.
Former chief minister Oommen Chandy of the Congress party also said that the new decision will help in protecting the faith of devotees. and expressed also hoped the pilgrimage season will be peaceful.
Pandalam Royal family member Sasikumar Varma, one of the petitioners, said he was happy with the apex court's decision to review the earlier verdict of allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple.
"The court understood the feelings of the devotees and transferred the petitions for review to a seven-judge bench. This means there was some error in the earlier judgment. We feel relieved and happy that the Supreme Court has decided to review its earlier verdict. This is Lord Ayyappa's blessing," he said.
The Sabarimala thantri or chief priest, Kandararu Rajeevaru welcomed the verdict saying that it will lead to a right decision on the belief and customs of the Sabarimala temple. "This gives us hope. This will strengthen the beliefs of devotees," he said.
Travancore Devaswom Board chairman A Padmakumar said that the ruling had endorsed their stand for more time to implement the verdict. He claimed that the majority verdict on the review petitions may allow status quo and it will help the smooth conduct of the annual pilgrimage season commencing on 16 November. When asked about lack of mention of stay in the verdict, he said that he will study the verdict and make further comments.
Ayyappa Karma Samiti leader Rahul Easwar termed the five-judge constitution bench verdict on the review petitions as a "pro-faith judgment". However, he reiterated that the Hindu organisations will continue to protest if women between the ages of 10 and 50 try to enter the temple. He said that the Karma Samiti will peacefully resist such attempts.
Senior BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan said the review petitions being referred to a seven-judge bench points to the fact that there was some apparent error in the earlier verdict.
"The government must show restraint and wait for the larger bench's verdict. In case women pilgrims in the banned age group try to offer worship, government must prevent them from doing so," Rajashekharan said.
Kerala's Left Democratic Front (LDF) convenor A Vijayaraghavan said that the state government was in favour of maintaining peace in Sabarimala. "The government wants to ensure peaceful conduct of the coming annual pilgrimage season. The government will take steps accordingly," said Vijayaraghavan.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury indicated that the government headed by the party in Kerala will continue with the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict.
"Our government in Kerala had made it clear that it will do what the Supreme Court stats. From what I understand from the verdict is that the apex court has not stayed the original order allowing entry of women all ages in the Sabarimala temple. We will study the judgement and decide what to do next," he added.
Kerala had been rocked by violent protests after the LDF government decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict of allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.
The Sabarimala temple will be open from 16 November and the annual two-month-long pilgrim season will begin from 17 November.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 14, 2019 17:46:29 IST