All women can enter Sabarimala temple, Supreme Court rules

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Today’s verdict is the latest in a recent series of landmark Supreme Court decisions, including the decriminalisation of gay sex and adultery.


  • Devotion can’t be subject to gender discrimination: Supreme Court
  • Top court removes ban on women aged 10-50; 4:1 majority verdict
  • Verdict latest in series of landmark decisions
The Supreme Court on Friday removed a centuries old traditional ban that prevented women between 10 and 50 years of age from entering Kerala’s Sabarimala temple — the latest in a recent series of landmark decisions, including the decriminalisation of gay sex and adultery.
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said that 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 religion. It also said that patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump the right to pray.

The Sabarimala shrine, located northeast of Pathanamthitta in a tiger reserve, is dedicated to the Hindu deity Ayyappan. Devotees consider Ayyappan to be an eternal celibate.

The bench, which comprised of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had reserved its verdict in the case on August 2 this year.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar said devotion can’t be subject to gender discrimination.

Justice Misra and Justice Khanwilkar delivered one of four judgments. Justices Rohinton F Nariman and Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud concurred. Justice Malhotra wrote a dissenting verdict.

Justice Indu Malhotra, who has penned a dissenting judgment, says worshippers of Sabarimala temple do not constitute a separate religious denomination. Justice Malhotra is the only woman on the five-judge bench. She adds that the petition does not deserve to be entertained.

“Notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion,” Justice Indu Malhotra said. “What constitutes essential religious practice is for the religious community to decide, not for the court. India is a diverse country. Constitutional morality would allow all to practise their beliefs. The court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion.”

Reacting to the verdict, the Travancore Devaswom Board president has said he will file a review petition. The TDB manages the Sabarimala temple. “We will go for a review petition after getting support from other religious heads,” A Padmakumar is quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
In recent weeks, the Supreme Court has delivered a series of historic judgments. It partially struck down one colonial-era law and scrapped another to decriminalise sex between consenting adults of the same sex and adultery. It said Aadhaar, a biometric database on more than 122 crore Indians, was valid — but imposed curbs.

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