SC refers case on women’s entry in Sabarimala shrine to Constitution bench
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday referred the matter relating to the entry of women in Kerala’s Sabarimala shrine to a five-judge Constitution bench.
A bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra said the issue of entry of women would be tested against the fundamental rights of Article 14 (equality under law) and Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste etc) of the Constitution of India.
The court is hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2006 by non-profit body Indian Young Lawyers’ Association, seeking entry for all women and girls to the Sabarimala shrine. Girls and women of menstruating age are not allowed in the premises of the temple, which houses Lord Ayyappan.
On 11 January, the court had questioned the ban, saying this cannot be done under the Constitution. “The temple cannot prohibit entry (of women), except on the basis of religion. Unless you have a constitutional right, you cannot prohibit entry,” the court had said.
Noting that this is not the first time that the Kerala government has changed its stand, the court asked the state to “unequivocally clarify its position”.
Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had told the court in an affidavit filed in September that it was now in support of entry of women into the temple, reversing its earlier stand on the issue.
In 2008, the LDF government had filed an affidavit before the apex court supporting the entry of women of all age groups to Sabarimala, which bars women of menstruating age. The coalition government, which returned to power in May, told the Supreme Court in July that it will not oppose the temple ban on women.