Supreme Court refers matter to Constitution bench

Sabarimala Temple

Sabarimala Temple

The Supreme Court on Friday referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench, a bunch of petitions challenging the age-old practice in Kerala's famed Sabarimala temple of not allowing women aged between 10 and 50 to enter the temple. "The temple can not prohibit entry (of women), except on the basis of religion".

However, women aged between 10 and 50 years are restricted from taking the pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple as they can not maintain purity on account of menstruation. This is the main reason for the dispute as women activists have questioned this as a clear practice of gender discrimination. Earlier this year in February, the apex court reserved an order while referring the case to a Constitution bench.

Another women's rights activist is also hoping that the SC rules in the favour of the women as India is a secular country. Challenging the ban restrictions on entry of women into the Sabarimala temple, the top court has been hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

A Constitution Bench will decide whether the rights of women, especially their fundamental right to religious freedom and to pray at the place of their choice, can be discriminated against by a temple managed by a statutory board - here the Travancore Devaswom Board - created by a State Legislature.

"I hope it will allow women to enter the temple otherwise we can not say it is secular country. Every right needs to be balanced but every balancing has its own limitations", the report further added.

However, the Kerala government on November 7 had informed the Supreme Court that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the temple.

Kerala's ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had told the court in an affidavit filed in September that it was now in support of entry of women into the temple, reversing its earlier stand on the issue.

The UDF government had taken a view that they were against the entry of women of the age group of 10-to-50 years as such a practice was being followed since time immemorial.

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