In a change of its earlier stand, the Kerala government on Monday informed the Supreme Court that women of all ages should be allowed entry and worship at Sabarimala Ayyappa temple without any restric
In a change of its earlier stand, the Kerala government on Monday informed the Supreme Court that women of all ages should be allowed entry and worship at Sabarimala Ayyappa temple without any restriction. At present, female devotees between the age group of 10 to 50 are not allowed entry to the temple.
During the pilgrimage season of November to January, the existing practice of not allowing women between 10 and 50 will continue as the court has posted the matter for final hearing on February 20, 2017, after the conclusion of the season.
Senior counsel Jaideep Gupta, appearing for Kerala, told a three-judge bench of Justices Dipak Misra, R. Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan that the Kerala government was sticking to its 2007 stand when it filed an affidavit seeking removal of the ban on entry of women in the age group of 10 and 50. He said he was withdrawing the additional affidavit filed soon after the present LDF government headed by Pinayari Vijayan came to power supporting the stand of the then UDF government to continue the existing ban.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association and five other women advocates challenging the ban.
Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Travancore Devaswom Board, strongly opposed the submission and said the government cannot change its stand according to convenience.
He said there are several judgments to this effect. He urged the court to refer the matter to a five-judge Constitution Bench as important questions of law relating to Articles 14, 21, 25 and 26 required interpretation, which can be done only by a larger bench. Counsel said any ruling in this case will have a huge impact and serous consequences and will have ramification for the whole country.
Justice Misra said the court will have to balance the rights, viz the right of denomination or cult to deny entry to women of particular age and the rights of those women who are excluded claiming right of entry into the temple. “We will hear the matter afresh as we are now sitting in a different combination. If we straightway refer it to five –judge bench, it will be an insult to our intelligence. If necessary we will pass an order to refer the case to a larger bench.”
Senior counsel K. Radhakrishnan, submitted that he was appearing for the King of Pandalam, whose foster son was Lord Ayyappa. He said this is history and he should be heard before any order is passed. Justice Misra said whether the Lord can be personalized or not will be decided during the course of hearing.
In 2007 Kerala in its affidavit had said “some scholars of ancient Kerala history say that the Sabarimala Sastha Prathista was once a Buddhist shrine. The rituals chanted by the worshippers to Sabarimala are synonymous to the `Saranathrayam’ of Buddhist disciples (Budham Saranam Gachami; Dharmam Saranam Gachami; Sangham Saranam Gachami).”
It however said “Government have no intention to create any controversy whatsoever. The government is not against any sort of discrimination towards women or any section of the public in any way. All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the Constitution gives right to worship to everyone equally. Hence it is not fair to deny a section of women from entering Sabarimala temple.”
The affidavit made it clear that at present the government was taking all steps to prevent women between the ages of 10 to 50 from entering the temple. The Maharaja of Travancore accompanied by Maharani had visited the temple in the olden days. Hence allowing entry of women of all ages was not a new right to get established but resumption of an old right. Meanwhile Rahul Easwar, son of late Easwar Namboodiri filed an impleadment application, through counsel V.K. Biju.
He said Sabarimala is a very unique temple. Even when there were Casteism & untouchability in India, Sabarimala never had any of these evils in it. In the centuries old history of Sabarimala, there were never casteism and communalism and all castes & religions were welcome into Sabarimala. It is a fact that there is only age regulation and not a complete ban on women entry.