Four months after the Supreme Court allowed the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has started hearing a batch of 65 review petitions and 4 writ petitions opposing the entry of women into the temple.
The proceedings started with the Chief Justice asking the senior advocates to confine their arguments to the grounds in the review petitions. In the course of two hours, around 10 advocates, appearing for various petitioners, presented their arguments before the Supreme Court.
The first to present the case was senior advocate K Parasaran, who was appearing for the Nair Service Society. Speaking for more than 20 minutes, he submitted that the Constitution bench had failed to deal with the interplay of the Constitution’s Preamble and Articles 15, 17 and 25 of Constitution.
Parasaran highlighted that Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination), which threw open all public institutions of secular character to all classes of person, conspicuously omitted religious institutions and therefore it was an error to strike down a temple custom under Article 15.
He also asserted that the Supreme Court’s September judgment did not consider the crucial aspect that Article 15 (2) does not cover religious places. The omission to consider this aspect constitutes an error apparent on record, the counsel submitted.
He argued that the practice was limited to a particular age group, and therefore cannot be equated with untouchability -- which excluded an entire class of people.
Parasaran concluded saying that the exclusionary practise in Sabarimala is based on the character of the deity, which is that of Naishtika Brahmachari or permanent celibate.
Appearing for the chief priest or Thantri of the Sabarimala temple, senior advocate VV Giri reitrated that right to pray has been in consonance with the nature and form of the deity. He argued that the restriction in Sabarimala had been based on the character of the deity.
Advocate VV Giri argued that any person who asserts right under article 25(2)(b) to worship has to do it in consonance with the nature of deity.
The Supreme Court is also hearing the petition filed against the temple for carrying out purification rituals after two women below the age of 50 — Kanakadurga and Bindu — entered the temple. The two women had entered the Sabarimala temple on January 2.
On September 28, the Supreme Court in a 4:1 majority ruling lifted the ban on the entry of women between the ages 10 to 50 into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
The SC bench, comprising the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra, observed that Article 25, the right to practice religion, is applicable to both men and women and struck down Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965.
Justice Indu Malhotra was the lone dissenting judge who ruled against lifting the ban and had observed that issues of deep religious sentiments should not be ordinarily be interfered by the Court.