In the review petition filed against the Supreme Court judgement in September last year allowing women of menstruating age to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, the apex court today decided to refer the case to a larger seven-judge bench of the SC. The bench observed that entry of women in religious places isn’t just about their entry in the controversial Sabarimala temple but also about their entry in mosques and in Parsi fire temple’s.

The five-judge bench comprised of justices AM Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra, DY Chandrachud, RF Nariman and headed by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. CJI Gogoi while reading the verdict on behalf of himself, Khanwilkar and Malhotra stated that the restriction of women into religious places is not limited to Sabarimala temple and said a seven-judge bench will decide all such religious issues relating to the temple, entry of women in mosques and practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community. Although, Justices Chandrachud and Nariman chose to give a dissenting verdict.

“Petitions have sought to revive the debate about what’s the religion and essential religious practices…Individual right to pray at temple cannot be superior to what is considered as religious by another sect is what petitions have argued,” Gogoi said before pronouncing the verdict.

“I am sure that the larger bench will give a judgment which will favour women’s empowerment and a huge step towards it.” – Trupti Desai

Acknowledging that courts should tread cautiously in matters of religious beliefs, the SC bench referred the matter to the larger bench of seven judges.

As justices Chandrachud and Nariman disagreed with the verdict, Nariman read out the dissenting verdict which said the issues of Muslim or Parsi women aren’t even before this court in the present batch of petition. As per the dissenting judgment, the Kerala government should bring all people together.

Also read: Women Activists Seeking Sabarimala Entry Earlier To Skip It This Year

A total of 56 review petition, four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas were filed against the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court bench last year on September 28. “It is a universal truth that faith and religion do not countenance discrimination but religious practices are sometimes seen as perpetuating patriarchy thereby negating the basic tenets of faith and of gender equality and rights,” the judgement read, News 18 reported.

Trupti Desai welcomed the judgment and tells SheThePeople.TV, “Because this matter has been transferred to the larger bench, it will consider women’s entry in all other religious places as well which is for a great good. Despite the fact that women too have right to pray, there are patriarchal orthodox customs which restrict women from entering certain religious places. Right now is the time for a mind-set change among people to not ban women devotees from entering any religious place in future.

I am sure that the larger bench will give a judgment which will favour women’s empowerment and a huge step towards it.”

On asking her now that the SC has dismissed the argument of women’s fundamental rights and said that it should tread cautiously in religious matters, how is she hopeful of a verdict that favours women, she says, “women who demand entry are also devotees and when God hasn’t discriminated amongst its devotees then who are these protestors? It is a matter of people who restrict others from offering their respect to God is wrong.”

“Petitions have sought to revive the debate about what’s the religion and essential religious practices…Individual right to pray at temple cannot be superior to what is considered as religious by another sect is what petitions have argued,” Gogoi said before pronouncing the verdict.

While it isn’t clear whether women will be allowed to enter Sabarimala as the temple readies to open its gates from November 17, Desai is positive that women can enter the temple albeit the Kerala government must have proper arrangements with adequate security forces who not only facilitate women’s entry but guard them on their way to the temple’s entry gate.

Rahul Easwar, who spearheaded the petition challenging women’s entry in Sabarimala, told News 18, “This is a victory for us. There is an admission that the earlier judgment should be scrapped. We are proud of SC.”

Sasikumara Varma, a representative of the Pandalam royal family, told Indian Express, “It gives us great happiness to see this verdict. Acknowledging the sentiments of millions of Ayyappa devotees across the world, the five-judge bench has referred the case to a larger seven-judge bench. The top court has decided to re-examine its earlier 2018 verdict. It raises the doubt that the top court thinks its earlier ruling may have been wrong. The Supreme Court has noted that it is not limited to entry of women to Hindu temples, but also the entry of women into mosques. It is a matter of great happiness for Ayyappa devotees.”

Also read: No Woman Doctor At Sabarimala Temple For Mandalam Season This Year

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