The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that women, irrespective of age, can enter Kerala’s Sabarimala shrine. A five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said the provision in the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which authorised the restriction, violated the right of Hindu women to practice worship. Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump the right to pray, said the Bench.
Other members of the Bench included Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra. While other judges supported entry of women, the lone women judge Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting verdict, opposing the entry of women of all age groups in the temple.
According to Justice Malhotra, issues of deep religious sentiments should not be ordinarily be interfered by the Court. “The Sabarimala shrine and the deity has the protection under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. Notion of rationality should not be seen in matters of religion. Court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion.”
A batch of petitions had challenged the ban on entry of women of certain age, which was upheld by the Kerala High Court. The HC had ruled that only the “tantri (priest)” was empowered to decide on traditions. The petitioners, including Indian Young Lawyers Association and Happy to Bleed, argued in court that the tradition is discriminatory in nature and stigmatised women, and that women should be allowed to pray at the place of their choice.
However, the verdict has triggered outrage in Kerala and elsewhere. Commenting on the verdict, social activist Madhu Purnima Kishwar tweeted: “When it came to challenging highly discriminatory 35A, SC postponed hearing citing “law & order problems.”. But in Sabarimala case SC bench prove themselves to be loyal sons of Macaulay. Salute Justice Indu Malhotra for independent & thoughtful dissent.”
A few other tweets:
I want an ordinance. I am an ordinary devotees of Ayyappa. I am extremely disappointed at the way I am being attacked. I was attacked by invaders directly for 800 yrs, now I am being attacked using the Judiciary. @BJP4India come out for the faithful Hindus. Useless. #Sabarimala
No Hindu men has ever restricted any woman to enter #Sabrimala But women themselves may not come due to their strong Belief System. Also #Sabarimala is unique exception rather than discrimination. These sensitive topics are blown out of proportion to malign the name of temple.
#Sabarimala I want Traditions of the Temple to be upheld & more stubborn because of the folks who want to change it. They just want to poke their nose everywhere and create nuisance. They want to reduce the holy place into another Jantar Mantar #SwamiSharanam
In Pandalam, where the presiding deity Ayyappa is believed to have taken birth the people are angry. “We are disappointed by the verdict. The judiciary has no respect for Hindu traditions. They are brainwashed by Western and Semitic traditions,” said Muraleedharan, closely associated with the royal family of Pandalam.
Meanwhile, a group of youngsters said they won’t allow any young woman to climb hills to visit Sabarimala, “even if it amounts to breaking law”. “This is ridiculous. Don’t we have right to protect our traditions. All Ayyappa temples en route to Sabarimala allows women of all ages. This has nothing to do with patriarchy. Kerala is a matriarchal society and from where they got the idea that it has something to do with patriarchy. We are saddened. As Hindus, we feel helpless. It is a judicial assault on Hindus,” Mini Nair told indusscrolls.com