Supreme Court allows women entry into Sabarimala temple

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Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud concurred with the CJI and Justice AM Khanwilkar. The board will have to see whether women will be able to enter this pilgrimage season or not.

Justice Indu Malhotra, the only female judge on the Supreme Court's bench delivered her dissent, in which she said religious organizations had the right to manage their own affairs. "Biological or physiological reasons can not be accepted in freedom for faith", the Chief Justice said. Gopalakrishnan is famous for saying that women will be allowed into the temple only after a machine is invented which will detect if it is "the right time" for the woman.

Celibacy: "Its effect is to impose the burden of a man's celibacy on a woman and construct her as a cause for deviation from celibacy", says the judgement.

Justice Malhotra also said right to equality conflicts with right to worship of devotees of Lord Ayyappa.

The authorities at the Sabarimala temple, which attracts tens of millions of pilgrims every year, have said the ban was rooted in a centuries-old tradition and is essential to the rites related to the temple's chief deity, Ayyappan. In addition, Eshwar said he and his associates would file a review petition. Now the country's apex court has put a full stop to it with its historic verdict. He also added that any custom or religious practise if it violates dignity of women by denying them entry because of her physiology is unconstitutional.

CJI Misra added, "Women no way inferior to men".

For justice Chandrachud, exclusion on the ground of menstrual status of a woman was tantamount to untouchability that applied to systemic humiliation, exclusion and subjugation faced by women, besides in relation to lower castes.

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Justice Malhotra further said the right to equality claimed by some conflicts with the right to follow a religious practice, again a fundamental right, and rejects plea for entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala. The Court in 4:1 Majority went on to say that the Shrine should welcome Women of all ages.

On October 13, 2017, a 3-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan referred the case to a Constitution Bench.

The court had on October 13 a year ago referred the issue to a Constitution bench after framing five "significant" questions including whether the practice of banning entry of women in the temple amounted to discrimination and violated their fundamental rights under the Constitution. The judge also holds that notions of "purity and pollution", which stigmatize individuals, have no place in a constitutional order.

During the course of the hearing, CJI Misra had pointed out that since the Sabarimala temple drew funds from the Consolidated Fund, and had people coming from all over the world, it was qualified to be called a "public place of worship".

"Today's ruling can affect other similar strictures like "Christian women cannot become priests".

There was a change in power in May 2016 and the LDF government returned to power. "We will discuss with the government how arrangements can be made to allow women entry", said the board's president, A Padmakumar, to television reporters.

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