SC on Sabarimala women's entry: Judges say everyone should be allowed inside, no concept of 'private temple'

In a big boost to the women's movement, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra on Wednesday observed that everyone should be allowed inside the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The top court also said that there is no concept of a private temple, and that the Supreme Court will not allow third-party control over the entry of women inside the temple's inner sanctum, News18 reported.

The CJI made the observations a day after the Supreme Court began to hear pleas on the contentious subject of the ban on the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 years inside the Sabarimala temple.

On Wednesday, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which is hearing a petition challenging the decision of the Devaswom board banning entry of women of age group 10-50 years, said that even if there was no law, the women cannot be discriminated against with regard to offering prayer in a temple. "When a man can enter, a woman can also go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman also," the bench also comprising justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra observed.

 SC on Sabarimala womens entry: Judges say everyone should be allowed inside, no concept of private temple

Representational image. PTI

"The right to enter a temple is not dependent on a legislation. It is the constitutional right," the bench said, adding that this right is enshrined under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Justice DY Chandrachud said, "Your (intervener) right to pray being a woman is equal to that of a man, and it is not dependent on a law to enable you to do that," ANI reported.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for one of the intervenors, assailed the practice and said that the ban on the entry of women of certain age groups was violative of various fundamental rights including Article 17 which deals with untouchability. She also referred to the definition of the term Hindu under various statutes and said that the women were discriminated against not on the ground of sex but because of menstruation.

Senior advocate Raju Ramchandran, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, supported the entry of women into the temple and said that denial of the right to entry of women was violative of fundamental rights.

Moreover, senior advocate JD Gupta, appearing for the Kerala government, said the state would support women's entry inside Sabarimala. The bench then referred to the contrary affidavits of the Kerala government which had in 2015 had supported the entry of women but made a U-turn in 2017 and opposed the entry. The counsel for the Kerala government said that it would go by its first affidavit and support the cause of women. At this, the Supreme Court expressed its wonder at the frequency with which Kerala changed its stand in the matter, Live Law reported.

The hearing on the plea filed by petitioners Indian Young Lawyers Association and others remained inconclusive and would continue on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the five-judge bench had asked the counsel for petitioners Indian Young Lawyers Association and others to limit their arguments to the questions of reference framed by a three-judge bench of the top court last year. This was after Advocate RP Gupta, who represents the petitioners, referred to the history of the temple. "You should not go into unnecessary things, and the counsels should limit their arguments to the issues referred to the constitution bench," the court said.

Meanwhile, Kerala minister K Surendran said: "The state government's stand is that women should be allowed to offer prayers in the Sabarimala temple. We've filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court explaining our stand. Now, it has to make a decision. We're bound to obey its verdict. The Devaswom board now has same opinion as the government."

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jul 18, 2018 20:18:18 IST