Sabarimala case referred to 7-judge SC bench

PTI New Delhi | Updated on November 14, 2019

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that restrictions on women in religious places was not limited to Sabarimala alone, and was prevalent in other religions as well, as it referred all review pleas to a larger seven-judge bench.

Also read: Sabarimala temple open for women of all ages, rules SC

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, reading the verdict on behalf of himself and Justices AM Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra, said that the larger bench will decide all such religious issues relating to Sabarimala, entry of women in mosques and practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community .

The CJI said the endeavour of the petitioners was to revive debate on religion and faith.

Also read: SC notice to Centre on plea seeking entry of Muslim women in mosques

The apex court, by a majority verdict of 4:1, on September 28, 2018, had lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the famous Ayyappa shrine in Kerala and had held that this centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional.

Political parties welcome decision

Political parties in Kerala on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court's decision. Hailing the verdict, Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala asked the Left-led state government "not to create issues" by providing security and taking women to offer prayers at the Ayyappa temple.

“Just because there is no stay of the September 28 verdict, the LDF government must try not to create issues by providing security and allowing women to enter Sabarimala. The state government must not implement its earlier agenda of taking women in the banned age group to the hill shrine,” he said.

However, the State government was yet to react on the decision.

Also read: SC’s decision on Sabarimala case in direction to protect rights of devotees, upholding faith: BJP leader Santhosh

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the new decision will help in protecting the faith of devotees. He also hoped the pilgrimage season will be peaceful.

Pandalam Royal family member Sasikumar Varma, who is one of the petitioners, said that he was happy with the apex court’s decision to review the September 28 verdict. "The court understood the feelings of the devotees and transferred the petitions to be reviewed by a seven-judge bench. This means there was some error in the earlier judgment. We feel relieved and happy that the SC has decided to review its earlier verdict. This is Lord Ayyappa’s blessing,” he said.

Senior BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan said the review petitions being referred to a seven-judge bench points to the fact that there was some apparent error in the earlier verdict. “The government must show restraint and wait for the larger bench’s verdict. In case women pilgrims in the banned age group try to offer worship, government must prevent them from doing so,” Rajashekharan said.

Kandararu Rajeevaru, Head Priest of the Sabarimala temple, said he respects the SC decision to refer last September’s verdict to a 7-judge bench. "This gives us hope. This will strengthen the beliefs of devotees," he said.

Social activist Rahul Easwaran described it as "pro-faith judgment". "Nobody should interfere in matters of faith," he added.

Kerala had been rocked by violent protests after the LDF government decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict of September 28 last year allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine. The Sabarimala temple will be open from November 16 and the annual two-month-long pilgrim season will begin from November 17.

Published on November 14, 2019

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