Reports say 10 women visited Sabarimala so far, are review petitions still relevant?

As many as 49 review petitions have been filed seeking a review of the judgment that allowed the entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala.
Reports say 10 women visited Sabarimala so far, are review petitions still relevant?
Reports say 10 women visited Sabarimala so far, are review petitions still relevant?
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Days after two women, Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, made history by entering the Sabarimala temple, reports suggest that at least 10 women below the age of 50 have offered prayers at the temple.

Police sources have told various media outlets that three Malaysian women of Tamil origin prayed at the temple on January 1, a day before Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga offered prayers. There are also reports that at least four other women under the age of 50 have been to the hilltop shrine since January 1. A Sri Lankan woman named Sasikala has also got darshan, police claimed and have released CCTV footage to support this claim. Hence, the total number of women who have apparently prayed at the temple stands at 10, as of now.

A top authority in the government told TNM, “As of now, at least eight or nine women have entered. This is an informal confirmation.”

On Saturday, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac tweeted, “You are asking me to explain how the two women managed to enter Sabarimala temple. Why? Just like any other devotee. Walked up to the hill. For your information, according to the Times of India report today, at least ten women have entered the temple and exercised their constitutional right.” (sic)

The ToI report says that they have accessed a video footage shot by the Kerala police special branch that shows the three Malaysian women of Tamil origin at Sabarimala on January 1.  The visuals in the footage are from Pamba, the base of the shrine. It’s believed to be taken after they returned from the temple. The video shows three women with their faces covered with shawls.

The three women were part of a group of 25 pilgrims belonging to the Tamil community from Malaysia. The group of women were not escorted by police.

Review petitions still relevant?

The big question now is if the review petitions filed against the SC judgment will have any legal standing, given the fact that women of menstruating ages have already entered the temple. As many as 49 review petitions have been filed seeking a review of the judgment that allowed the entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala. 

On November 13, the court had set aside the hearing of the petitions to January 22. But the court said that “we make it clear that there is no stay of the judgment and order of this Court dated 28th September.”

President of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena, Rahul Easwar opined that women entering the temple does not change the merits of the review petitions, though it will have an impact on it. 

“I believe the court will give the review petitions a chance as the atmosphere at the national level is favourable to us. And if the verdict was pronounced by the then Chief of Justice of India Dipak Misra against whom an impeachment motion was moved, the review petitions will be heard by the bench headed by Ranjan Gogoi. Just like the ban on Jallikattu was lifted, the SC will rule in our favour,” he said.

Rahul accused the Kerala Chief Minister of lying about the entry of the Sri Lankan woman. “There is no actual proof for her visit. He was lying about it, we will point this out with evidence to the court,” he added.

However, advocate Cherunniyoor Sasidharan Nair says that since the verdict has already been implemented, chances are high that the review petitions will be rejected. “Those who filed the review petitions believe that since the CJI changed, the petitions will be approved. But I don’t think so. If the court does so, it would create an undesirable precedence. The huge number of review petitions and the chaos in the name of women entry is like threatening the judiciary and pressuring it. It is only in the rarest of the rare instance that the court revokes its own judgment.”

An eminent lawyer, Sasidharan Nair has 52 years of experience. “After all, there is no fact check needed, only interpretation of the Constitution. The 400-page judgment was so elaborate; it has mentioned about all the sides. It has very clearly said that in its interpretation of the Constitution, equality is above all. What has happened now to Lord Ayyappa or the devotees? The problem is for those who exploit superstitions and portray them as faith,” he adds.

Meanwhile, J Sai Deepak, a Delhi-based advocate, who had argued that Ayyappa in Sabarimala is a celibate and his individual rights should be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution, told TNM that he believes the review petitions are still relevant. “I think the review petitions are still relevant. But I won’t comment more as the matter is sub judice,” he says. Deepak, who had represented People for Dharma and Chetana, had argued that the rule in the temple was not discriminatory, for it was neither based on misogyny nor menstrual impurity. Rather, Ayyappa’s celibacy was a fundamental character of the temple.

Advocate PV Dinesh appearing for the Indian Young Lawyers Association also has the view that the petitions are still relevant. “The petitions are still relevant and while considering them, the court can even take a view that young women shouldn’t enter.” 

Dinesh says that the more relevant question now is why the court has declined to urgently hear the contempt of court petition against the temple thantri for shutting down the temple for an hour for purification rituals.  “Why is the SC waiting till January 22? If the court said that it would initiate contempt of court proceedings, these problems in the name of the verdict, would have been settled once and for all. Why is the court not doing it even when there is a law and order situation in the state? The court could have taken suo moto contempt case and there is no need for the Constitution bench to hear a contempt case," he added.

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