New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the reference of questions of law relating to religion to a larger bench. The nine-judge bench ordered the framing of seven issues.
The order comes against the backdrop of the Sabarimala judgement of 2019. The top court had then asked a larger bench to review various religious issues, such as the entry of women into places of worship, including mosques and the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.
The apex court had on 6 February reserved its order on whether it can refer questions of law to a larger bench in a review petition.
The court while referring the matter to a larger bench had broadly mentioned seven questions of law to be examined. These are the interplay between Article 25 of the Constitution (right to profess religion of choice) and 26 (right to manage religious affairs), the meaning of ‘sections of Hindus’ in the Constitution; the need to delineate the expression constitutional morality or morality; whether essential religious practices of denomination or a section thereof are protected under Article 26 of the Constitution, the extent to which courts can enquire into particular religious practices; meaning of the expression ‘public order, morality and health’ and permissible extent of judicial recognition to public interest litigations (PILs) in matters calling into question religious practices of a denomination or a section at the instance of persons who do not belong to such religious denominations?
The nine-judge bench said that a time limit would be prescribed for arguments which would be limited to five days for one side and which is extendable to seven days. The hearings are likely to commence on 17 February.
This will be the second case to have a day-to-day hearing as announced by the nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta had along with senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Fali Nariman, K. Parasaran, and K.S. Vaidyanath, argued in favour of referring the Sabarimala review and related petitions to a larger bench, while senior advocates Shyam Divan, Indira Jaisingh, Rajeev Dhawan, and Jaideep Gupta differed.