Supreme Court: The 5-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra, Rohinton Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra JJ., is likely to pronounce its decision on the “ban on entry of women aged between 10 to 50 years” into the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. The decision was reserved by the Bench on 01-08-2018 after  8- day long proceedings.

During the hearings, the Bench had the following opinion in regard to the issue:

CJI Dipak Misra: Where a man can enter, even a woman can go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman.

Nariman J., The only reason is the paternalistic notion that during 41 days women cannot keep the Vratam, no other temple prohibits women.

Chandrachud J.: Tagging religious belief with menarche is absurd. Exclusion on the basis of age of a woman is irrelevant, tagging age with menarche is even more so.

Chandrachud J., “In a patriarchal society, women are made to go through a certain social conditioning from birth, on how to behave, what to say, what to do, etc.”

The following questions/ issues are expected to be answered in today’s decision:

  1. Whether the exclusionary practice which is based upon a biological factor exclusive to the female gender amounts to “discrimination” and thereby violates the very core of Articles 14, 15 and 17 and not protected by ‘morality’ as used in Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution?
  2. Whether the practice of excluding such women constitutes an “essential religious practice” under Article 25 and whether a religious institution can 30 assert a claim in that regard under the umbrella of right to manage its own affairs in the matters of religion?
  3. Whether Ayyappa Temple has a denominational character and, if so, is it permissible on the part of a ‘religious denomination’ managed by a statutory board and financed under Article 290-A of the Constitution of India out of Consolidated Fund of Kerala and Tamil Nadu can indulge in such practices violating constitutional principles/ morality embedded in Articles 14, 15(3), 39(a) and 51-A (e)?
  4. Whether Rule 3 of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules permits ‘religious denomination’ to ban entry of women between the age of 10 to 50 years? And if so, would it not play foul of Articles 14 and 15(3) of the Constitution by restricting entry of women on the ground of sex?
  5. Whether Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965 is ultra vires the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965 and, if treated to be intra vires, whether it will be violative of the provisions of Part III of the Constitution?

The Judgment of the Constitution Bench is awaited.

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