Sabarimala Verdict: A Timeline of Temple Entry Issue

After the Supreme Court referred review petitions to a larger bench, The Wire recaps the nearly 30-year legal history of the issue.

New Delhi: More than a year after the Supreme Court’s historic Sabarimala verdict in September 2018, the apex court on Thursday referred the review petitions filed against the right of women to enter the temple to a larger bench.

The verdict was delivered by a constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices R.F. Nariman, D.Y. Chandrachud, A.M. Khanwalikar and Indu Malhotra. Justices Nariman and Chandrachud dissented with the verdict.

The Wire recaps the chronology of events, beginning in 1990 with a plea in the Kerala high court seeking a ban on the entry of women into Sabarimala until Thursday’s verdict.

1990: S. Mahendran files plea in Kerala high court seeking a ban on women’s entry to the temple.

April 5, 1991: Kerala high court upholds the age-old restriction on women of a certain age-group entering the temple.

August 4, 2006: Indian Young Lawyers Association files plea in Supreme Court seeking to ensure the entry of female devotees between the age group of 10-50 at the Lord Ayappa Temple at Sabarimala.

November 2007: The CPI(M)-led LDF government of Kerala files an affidavit supporting the PIL questioning ban on women’s entry.

January 11, 2016: Two-judge bench of Supreme Court questions practice banning entry of women at the temple.

February 6, 2016: Congress-led UDF government takes U-turn, tells Supreme Court it is duty-bound to “protect the right to practice the religion of these devotees”.

April 11, 2016: Supreme Court says gender justice endangered by the ban on women entering the temple.

April 13, 2016: Supreme Court says tradition cannot justify a ban on women’s entry.

April 21, 2016: Hind Navotthana Pratishtan and Narayanashrama Tapovanam files plea in Supreme Court supporting entry of women.

November 7, 2016: LDF government files a fresh affidavit in the Supreme Court saying it favoured the entry of women of all age groups.

October 13, 2017: Supreme Court refers the case to Constitution bench.

October 27, 2017: Plea filed in Supreme Court for gender-equal bench to hear the case.

Supreme Court. Photo: PTI

July 17, 2018: Five-judge Constitution bench starts hearing the matter.

July 19, 2018: Supreme Court says women have a fundamental right to enter the temple and questioned the rationale behind the age group.

July 24, 2018: Supreme Court made it clear that the ban on entry of women would be tested on “constitutional ethos”.

July 25, 2018: Nair Service Society tells Supreme Court the celibate nature of Sabarimala temple’s presiding deity Lord Ayyappa is protected by the Constitution.

July 26, 2018: The Supreme Court observes it can’t remain oblivious to ban on entry of women as they were barred on “physiological ground” of menstruation.

July 31, 2018: The Supreme Court says constitutional scheme prohibiting exclusion has “some value” in a “vibrant democracy”.

August 1, 2018: The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra reserves verdict.

September 28, 2018: The Supreme Court, in 4:1 verdict, allows entry of women in Sabarimala temple, says banning females’ entry into the shrine is gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women. Justice Indu Malhotra delivers the dissenting judgment.

October 2018: The state government seeks time to implement the verdict. Largescale protests prevent women from entering the temple. Mediapersons attacked, while opposition parties, including the BJP and Congress, begin protests against the state government’s intention to implement the Supreme Court order.

November 2018: Supreme Court agrees to hear review petitions against its verdict.

January 1, 2019: Women of the state form a historic 620-km ‘Women’s Wall‘, a human chain spreading across all 14 districts to “preserve Renaissance values” and promote women’s rights.

January 2, 2019: 96 days after the Supreme Court’s judgment, two women enter the temple. Bindu Hariharan (42), an assistant professor at the School of Legal Studies, University of Kannur, and Kanakadurga (44), a Kerala government employee, were the two women who made history.

January 3, 2019: On a day of massive protests in respone to the entry of the two women, more than 600 people arrested.

February 2019: The Supreme Court reserves its order on the review petition.

November 14, 2019: The apex court referred the review petitions to a larger bench.

(With PTI inputs)