The Supreme Court's five-member bench today heard the petitions on the Sabarimala Temple case. The Kerala temple trust prohibits entry of women aged 10-50 years in the inner sanctum. After hearing a few petitions, the bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra said woman have a constitutional right to pray and it does not depend on laws.
Speaking for one of the interveners, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising argued, “Prohibiting women from temple entry is a form of untouchability,” Live Law reported.
“What is good law for Harijans is good law for women as well,” she added. Jaising clarified to the bench that the petitioners are only seeking the right to enter the temple and not to perform rituals in the inner sanctum.
But Justice DY Chandrachud responded to Jaising by saying that Article 17 which focuses on untouchability may not apply in this case but he suggests expression "all classes and sections" in Article 25(2)(b) may be relevant to include women.
"What applies to a man, applies to a woman", CJI Dipak Misra observed. He also asked whether essential practices of religions could run counter to constitutional values.
"All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion... This means your right as a woman to pray is not dependent on a legislation. It is your constitutional right."
"Every woman is also the creation of God and why should there be discrimination against them in employment or worship," said Justice Chandrachud.
"All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion... This means your right as a woman to pray is not dependent on a legislation. It is your constitutional right," the judge said.
The Travancore Devaswom Board runs the temple's trust. Last year its chief had said that women will only enter the temple when it will have a machine installed which will check if women are menstruating or not. The temple’s tradition doesn’t allow menstruating women to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple because the myth goes that Lord Ayyappa is meditating in the temple and infringement of women will mean that it will break his celibacy oath.
While it is a customary practice, the apex court is yet to decide if it is a constitutional practice or not.
Picture credit- India Today