New Delhi/Bengaluru: Even as Supreme Court rulings scrapping a ban on gay sex, decriminalizing adultery and allowing entry of women inside the Sabarimala temple have accelerated the pace of social reforms, political analysts say that the role of the court in shaping policy on these issues points to the failure of the legislature to meet people’s expectations.

Even before the Supreme Court on Friday scrapped the ban on menstrual-age women from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, a discriminatory practice against women in the name of religion, it had advanced debate on contentious topics such as privacy, sexuality, criminal politicians, mob-lynching and gender injustice, to name a few.

“The fact that Supreme Court had to intervene in all these cases reflects on the legislative and executive. It is because of the failure of the legislative and executive, more so of the legislative that people were forced to reach out to Supreme Court and file public interest litigations (PIL)," said Sanjay Kumar, political analyst and director of New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

Supreme Court delivering landmark judgements one after another, and bringing resolution to complex issues that have been previously thought nearly impossible for governments to solve, begs the question: is the top court fast becoming an engine for social change?

The silence of the two national parties, Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on entry of women in Sabarimala, adultery law, and decriminalizing sexual relations between consenting homosexual adults also indicates that the political class is waiting for the reaction of the people to choose its side.

Kumar argues that while people or petitioners explored legal options as successive governments failed to resolve the disputes, the performance of the legislature and executive in such matters was questionable. “Ideally, it is not the job of the Supreme Court to intervene in such cases. It was the role of legislative and executive. It is failure of the legislative to perform," Kumar added.

The decision to end the 158-year-old controversial legal provision of section 377 signalled an end to prejudice.

“See, with an order like this (Sabarimala), the whole gender injustice playing out in the region as a whole will come out. It raises the profile of these issues, raises a high-stakes debate on them" said J. Prabhash, a professor of political science at the University of Kerala.

With the court going after issues that are core to Indian politicians such as religious rites, as it happened in the case of Sabarimala, Prabhash says the apex court has become a major disruptor of the country’s political forces.

“You can expect a party such as BJP to say something like the court cannot play with tradition, and make it appear like a larger game plan to undermine Hindu religion. In many states, these politicians are holding on to power by holding on to the traditional forces such as religion and caste. They will blame the court of playing too much into these kind of things, but may not be telling this in as many words," said Prabhash.

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