Sabarimala protests: Kerala High Court slams police action against devotees; no SC hearing of review pleas before 22 Jan
Around 72 Sabarimala pilgrims were arrested since late Sunday night from Sabarimala temple after they failed to comply with the prohibitory orders in place. This triggered protests at the shrine and across Kerala.
The Supreme Court has ruled out early hearing on the review petitions in the Sabarimala case filed before it. The case pertains to Supreme Court's 28 September verdict where the bench allowed the entry of women from 10-50 years of age into the temple. The court also dismissed a petition seeking a stay on its verdict.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said there would be no early hearing in the matter before 22 January, when it will hear fresh review petitions along with all pending applications in an open court.
The court made the statement while refusing to hear the fresh plea of National Ayyappa Devottees (Women's) Association alleging lack of civic amenities for devotees at the temple and the roads leading to the shrine. "You come prepared on 22 January. This has to be heard by a five-judge bench and it would not be just for a three-judge bench to hear you," the bench said when lawyer Mathews J Nedumapara sought an urgent hearing of the plea.
Meanwhile, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) moved the Supreme Court seeking more time to implement the 28 September verdict that had allowed the entry of women in the temple irrespective of their age. The TDB petition has cited lack of basic amenities, among other factors, as grounds for more time.
The review petitions have sought a re-examination of the Supreme Court's 28 September verdict allowing the entry of women of all ages inside the Sabarimala temple. The court had emphasised that till 22 January, its verdict in the Sabarimala case will remain effective.
On 9 October, too, the Supreme Court had declined an urgent hearing of the review plea filed by the National Ayyappa Devotees Association, which had contended that the five-judge constitution bench's verdict lifting the ban was "absolutely untenable and irrational".
Kerala High Court questions police excesses
Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court on Monday pulled up the state government for the excessive deployment of the police force at Sabarimala and arrest of over 70 pilgrims. "What right does police have to stop devotees," the high court asked the police. While hearing a number of petitions against alleged police harassment, the special Devaswom bench of the court questioned the state attorney under what authority the police were trying to restrict devotees' right to worship and summoned the advocate general to appear in court at 1.45 pm.
"The place of the police in Sabarimala is in baracks. They should not harass the pilgrims," the high court observed, adding that police excesses cannot be allowing in enforcing the Supreme Court's judgment allowing women's entry inside the shrine, Live Law reported.
On Sunday, a large number of BJP and RSS workers protested outside the official residence of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram against the detention of over 30 people at the Sabarimala temple. Simultaneous protests were also held at various places across Kerala, including in Aranmula, Kochi, Kollam, Alapuzha, Ranni, Thodupuzha, Kaladi, Malappuram and Idukki, among other locations.
Protest against arrest of 72 pilgrims
Furthermore, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha — the BJP's youth wing — has also planned a day-long protest against the "police high-handedness".
This is in reaction to the arrest of 72 pilgrims since late Sunday night from Sabarimala temple after they failed to comply with the prohibitory orders in place. This had led to protests at Sabarimala as well as across Kerala.
Over 200 pilgrims had refused to vacate the temple premise after 10 pm, as ordered by the Kerala administration, singing Lord Ayyappa hymns and chants. The police said they were forced to act after the devotees refused to pay heed to their repeated requests.
Union Tourism Minister KJ Alphons had criticised the action taken by the Kerala government. On Monday, he reached the Pampa base came for Sabarimala pilgrims, saying he had come "to see what is happening in Sabarimala" as he had read that "the Kerala government is making life difficult for the pilgrims". He also questioned the need to deploy 15,000 policemen at Sabarimala.
"Devotees are not extremists. It is not a democracy. Even Stalin will be shamed. The government considers devotees sworn enemies and gave a free hand to control helpless pilgrims," he said after reaching Sabarimala, according to the Hindustan Times.
KP Sasikala reaches Sabarimala
Hindu Aikya Vedi chief Sasikala reached Sabarimala temple on Monday amid statewide protests against the arrest of 72 devotees post-midnight on Sunday. She was arrested on Saturday for violating the prohibitory orders in force at the shrine — and later granted bail — after which the Hindu Aikya Vedi and the Sabarimala Karma Samithi called for a strike. The BJP had supported this hartal.
On Monday, Sasikala was allowed to trek to the hill shrine after she assured authorities that she would return after offering prayers. She was asked to give an undertaking that she would not set up camp at the temple top, the Hindustan Times reported.
The Supreme Court's verdict had triggered violent protests at the base camps near the Sabarimala hill shrine, as devotees and several Hindu outfits had blocked women from entering the temple when it opened for monthly prayers in October.
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