Supreme Court lifts ban that prevented women from entering Sabarimala temple

Sep 29, 2018, 12:00 IST | Agencies

Apex court lifts the ban that prevented women of the menstruating age from entering the temple in Kerala

Supreme Court lifts ban that prevented women from entering Sabarimala temple
In this photo taken on January 15, 2011, devotees pray at Sabarimala temple during Maravilakku festival in Pathanamthitta, Kerala. Pic/AFP

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court on Friday lifted a ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala, holding this centuries-old Hindu religious practice is illegal and unconstitutional.

Women activists hailed the judgment that paved the way for entry of female devotees of all ages as a victory for gender equality while Union Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, said it would make Hinduism even more inclusive. The temple barred women of a "menstruating age" - defined as between the ages of 10 and 50 - from entering.

The Chief Justice Dipak Misra-headed Constitution bench in a 4-1 verdict held that the existing ban is gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women. "Restrictions put by Sabarimala temple can't be held as essential religious practice," said Justice Misra. While Justices R F Nariman and D Y Chandrachud concurred with the CJI and Justice A M Khanwilkar, Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting verdict. Justice Malhotra was of the view that it is not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down except in issues of social evil.

Hill top shrine in God's Own Country
Sabarimala is a prominent Hindu temple, which attracts tens of millions of pilgrims every year. The hill top shrine remains open only for a little over four months in a year and the approach is through a forested area that involves an arduous 5-km trek from the Pampa river base camp.

Verdict disappointing, says head priest
The SC's verdict allowing entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple, was "disappointing", but the shrine board will accept it, Sabarimala head priest Kandararu Rajeevarau said. Travancore Devaswom Board President A Padmakumar told the media that the court's verdict would be studied in detail and further course of action will be decided after that.

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