NEW DELHI :
The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a challenge to its ruling allowing entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
The issue has created a huge controversy with large-scale protests against the entry of women of the 10-50 age group rocking the state and echoing across the country. The protestors have argued that the tradition of the temple should be maintained, while the pro-entry camp contends that the equality of gender must rule.
Political parties have used the issue to gain brownie points with the electorate. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have opposed the entry. However, the Left Democratic Front, which is in power in the state, has said it will enforce the Supreme Court verdict allowing the entry of women.
On Wednesday, a Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi heard arguments for more than four hours by all parties on a batch of 65 petitions seeking a review of its ruling allowing the entry of women into the temple before reserving the judgement.
The Kerala government, however, said that the ruling of the court was legally sound and there were no grounds for review. “There is a vast difference between essential practices of a religion and of a temple which cannot be confused with each other. The exclusion of women is not essential to the Hindu religion as women are allowed in other Ayyappa temples," said senior advocate Jaipeep Gupta appearing for the Kerala government.
Senior advocate K. Parasaran, appearing for the Nair Service Society (NSS), told the court that it was erroneous to have struck down a custom of a temple under Article 15 of the Constitution. The court normally does not interfere in activity associated with religious institutions, unless a practice is very abhorrent, he said.
The offence would be applicable only if someone was treated less than a human being, Parasaran argued. The exclusionary practice in Sabarimala temple was based on the nature of the deity, which is that of Naishtika Brahamchari, he said.