In a sensational verdict that will have far-reaching implications in the ‘right to pray’ movement, the Supreme Court today lifted the ban on women’s entry in Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple, irrespective of their age, to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. A five-member constitution bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra,
Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra, in a 4-1 majority, struck down provisions of The Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 that banned women between the age of 10 and 50 from the temple.
The practice had been in place for centuries. Justice Malhotra, the lone woman on the bench, had a dissenting view. Delivering the judgment for himself and Justice Khanwilkar, CJI Misra said Ayyappa devotees do no constitute a separate religious denomination.
“Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump right to pray and practise religion. Any rule based on biological characteristics cannot pass muster of constitutional test. Ayyappa devotees do no constitute a separate religious denomination,” CJI Misra said.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) had argued in court that they should be allowed to make the rules for the Sabarimala temple as they form a denomination. Justice Chandrachud, in his opinion, said, “Religion cannot be cover to deny women right to worship. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at Constitutional morality. Physiological features cannot be a ground for denial of right.”