New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear review petitions challenging the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in open court on 22 January.

The decision to have an open court hearing was taken by a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi following a hearing in his chamber.

There are a total of 49 review petitions challenging the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

One of these petitions, filed by the National Ayyappa Devotees Organization, contended that the ruling was unconstitutional, void and in violation of the principles of natural justice. The judgement is vitiated by “errors apparent on the face of record", the petition said.

It was also claimed that the judgement was in violation of express constitutional provisions guaranteeing the liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship of Ayyappa devotees under Section 25 of the Constitution.

On 28 September, a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra in a 4:1 majority ruling granted women of all ages the right to enter Sabarimala temple, reversing the shrine’s tradition of barring girls and women of menstruating age.

“Morality cannot be viewed with a narrow lens so as to confine the sphere of definition of morality to what an individual, a section or religious sect may perceive the term to mean," Justice A.M. Khanwilkar on behalf of himself and Justice Misra wrote, recognizing that banning women from the temple was derogatory to them.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, in his separate but concurring judgement, said religion could not become a cover to exclude and deny the basic right to find fulfilment in worship to women. Physiological factors associated with women could not provide a rationale to deny them the right to worship, he said.

Justice Indu Malhotra, in the sole dissenting opinion, held that it was not for courts to determine if these practices should be struck down.

The court had ruled on a public interest litigation filed in 2006 by non-profit organization called Indian Young Lawyers’ Association seeking entry for women and girls to the shrine.

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