Legal Explainer: HC Dismisses Plea For Women Priests at Mahakal Temple

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Following the high-profile legal cases and controversies over Shani Shingnapur, Sabrimala temple and the recent Haji Ali Dargah, the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court last week dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking appointment of women as priests in Ujjain’s Mahakal temple. Advocate Vinay Zelawat had taken up the PIL on behalf of petitioner Virendra Sharma against the state government and Ujjain collector.

Also Read: Jain temple in Ujjain bans entry of women in ‘western dress’

So what does it mean? SheThePeople.TV asked Lawyer Mayank Mikhail Mukherjee for more on the ramifications.

“It would be important to realise that in the case of Shani Shingnapur Temple wherein women were allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum, only recently the High Court was upholding the provision of law as given in Maharashtra Hindu Places of Public Worship (entry Authorisation) Act, 1956. Thus, the Bombay High Court was upholding the law as it existed in the state,” he explained.

Also Read: Big news: Women can enter inner sanctum of Haji Ali Dargah

“In the present case the Petition referred to the appointment of women priests within the temple. The temple is stated to be one of the jyotirlingas and thus holds an especially holy position within the Hindu Pantheon. In such cases, where the Legislature has not defined the law, it is best for the courts to be circumspect, especially keeping in view religious theology. I say religious theology and not sentiment, because at times the two can be separate and where theology does not prohibit actions (such as allowing female pujari’s) sentiment may be the factor which bars progressive thought from entering the into the dogmatic system.”

And going further into what seems like tricky territory socio-culturally, Mukherjee explains the clarity that comes with the law.

Also Read: Bhopal Jain temples ban women in jeans. Seriously, how dangerous can denim pants be?

“The Courts should thus carefully apprise themselves of the specific religious import of their orders from a theological perspective before passing any order. In fact it is ideal that the Courts do not create new law but merely enforce the same. It is more so important cases where the Courts must walk a tightrope between religion and progressive thought which is against religious dogma/theology that the Courts be circumspect.”

He adds, “The best method, however, of initiating any progressive action is for a broad based consensus to be formed and a Legislative Act to be passed upon the same. This is because the greater the consensus in civil society the better is the application and enforcement of the law, and also allows civil society to maintain order.”

Feature Image Credit: india.com

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