New Delhi: The Travancore Devaswom Board on Thursday supported the restriction on the entry of women and girls inside the Sabrimala Temple premises and told the Supreme Court that the practice was based on a “well founded bonafide belief" and must be understood in context of the “nature of the deity".
The statement came as a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices Rohinton Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra was hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2006 by non-profit body, Indian Young Lawyers’ Association, seeking entry for all women and girls inside the Sabarimala shrine.
Girls and women of menstruating age—10-50 years—are not allowed in the premises of the temple, which houses Lord Ayyappan.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhavi, counsel appearing for the board, contended that the ban had a “historical origin" as the entry of women and girls of menstruating age was anti-thetical to the “Naishtika Brahmachari" (celibate) nature of the deity.
Women all across the country are restrained from entering any temple during menstruation, Singhavi submitted, adding that the ban on entry was justified as it was physiologically impossible for women to observe the 41-day penance for the deity.
Amicus curiae, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, argued that excluding females based on “notion of impurity or defilement" should amount to the practice of untouchability, which is prohibited under Article 17 of the Constitution.
The All India Democratic Women’s Association, represented by P.V. Surendranath, argued that the restriction on the entry of females of menstruating age was in violation of the Constitution’s equality and dignity principle. He further said that Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs) was subject to morality and did not permit any discriminatory practice.
The state of Kerala is supporting the entry of women of all ages inside the shrine.
The case was referred to a constitution bench by a bench headed by Chief Justice Misra in October last year.
The matter would be next heard on 24 July.