New Delhi: The Travancore Devaswom Board moved the Supreme Court on Monday seeking more time to implement its verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

The board managing the affairs of the temple cited the lack of basic infrastructure to make the arrangements for implementing the verdict and severe law and order problems in Kerala, particularly in the area around the temple. Review petitions on the matter are slated to be heard in January.

The board submitted that prior to the court’s order lifting the ban, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) upon visiting Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilakkal filed a report before the apex court seeking to stop construction around these areas. The board would only be in a position to undertake further arrangements after the objections raised by the CEC are adjudicated upon.

“Even though the applicant (Travancore Devaswom Board) had undertaken arrangements of the requisite additional infrastructure at Pampa, Nilakkal and Sabarimala, the same is yet to be completed for want of more time and the objections raised by the CEC," the board said.

Extension of time was also sought to meet additional infrastructure such as restrooms, washrooms and other necessary facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of women.

Also Read: Of Sabarimala row and Kerala’s groundbreaking temple entry law

On 28 September, the apex court reversed the Kerala shrine’s tradition of barring girls and women of menstruating age—10-50 years—and granted them the right to enter the Sabarimala temple. The judgement was seen as a victory for women’s rights.

The 4:1 majority verdict was passed by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and judges D.Y. Chandrachud, A.M. Khanwilkar, R.F. Nariman and Indu Malhotra, the sole woman on the bench and the author of the dissenting opinion.

Recognizing that banning women from entering the temple was derogatory, Khanwilkar on behalf of himself and Misra said: “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."

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. He added that physiological factors associated with women could not provide a rationale to deny them the right to worship.

Malhotra, in her sole dissenting opinion, held that it was not for the courts to determine if these practices should be struck down. “What constitutes an essential religious practice is for the religious community/denomination to decide," she said. She added that constitutional morality required “harmonization of rights of all persons", religious denominations or sects, to ensure that the religious beliefs of none were undermined.

The court was ruling on a public interest litigation filed in 2006 by non-profit body Indian Young Lawyers’ Association, seeking entry for women and girls to the Sabarimala shrine.

The Travancore Devaswom Board had justified the restriction saying the ban had a “historical origin" as the entry of women and girls of menstruating age was antithetical to the Naishtika Brahmachari (celibate) nature of the deity.

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