SC to hear plea against gender bias at religious places on Mon

The Asian Age.  | Parmod Kumar

India, All India

The Kerala government too would get time to argue its case as it is main respondent in Sabarimala matter.

Supreme Court of India

New Delhi: A nine-judge Constitution Bench will commence hearing on the issues relating to gender justice and essential religious practices from Monday that is slated to last for three weeks.

The primary issue before the court is the right of women under Article 14 (equality before law) and the essential religious practices under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

The issues to be adjudicated by the Constitution Bench are rooted in challenge to the prohibition on the entry of women in the age of 10 to 50 years in Lord Ayyappa’s temple, bar on the entry of Muslim women in mosque, and that of the Parsi woman in the temple of fire after they marry outside the community. Another discriminatory practice under challenge is the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The court has framed seven questions to be adjudicated in the course of the hearing that includes examining what is the scope and ambit of right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution and what is the inter-play between the rights of persons under Article 25 and rights of religious denomination under Article 26 of the Constitution.

The nine-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice S.A.Bobde has set the target of concluding the hearing by March 6 — last day before the court goes on weeklong Holi break from March 9. March 7 and 8 are Saturday and Sunday.

Besides CJI Bobde, other judges on the nine-judge Constitution Bench are Justices R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L. Nageswara Rao, Mohan N. Shantanagoudar, S. Abdul Nazeer. R. Subhash Reddy, B.R.Gavai and Surya Kant.

The court has given both the sides seven days each to conclude their arguments. The lawyers on both the sides have been asked to divide the issues to be argued amongst themselves with total bar on repetition.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has been given a separate one day to present the views of the Central government on the issues to be adjudicated by the court. The Solicitor General had sought one and a half day time for advancing his arguments.

The Kerala government too would get time to argue its case as it is main respondent in Sabarimala matter. The Bench will also address the question whether the rights of a religious denomination under Article 26 are subject to other fundamental rights. The court will also adjudicate what is the scope of word “morality” and whether it is meant to include constitutional morality. Besides, the court will also look into the extent of judicial review with regard to a religious practice as referred to in Article 25 of the Constitution.