Sabarimala Temple: SC Says Denial of Entry to Women Is Against Constitutional Mandate

"Once you open it [temple] for public, anybody can go," said Chief Justice Dipak Misra, hearing the controversial decision to ban women aged between 10 years and 50 years from the temple.

Observing that the right of a woman to pray was equal to that of a man, the Supreme Court on Wednesday heard the controversial ban of entry to woman aged between 10 years and 50 years at the Sabrimala temple in in Kerala.

“Your (intervener) right to pray being a woman, is equal to that of a man and it is not dependent on a law to enable you to do that,” observed Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra, while hearing the matter observed, “On what basis you (temple authorities) deny the entry. It is against the Constitutional mandate. Once you open it for public, anybody can go.”

The temple has refused to allow women of menstruating age to enter the temple.

The hearing began on Tuesday and the apex court asked the counsel for petitioners and others to limit their arguments on the questions of reference made by a three-judge bench of apex court last year. The top court had last year asked a constitutional bench to examine the legality of the ban on entry of women in the age group of 10-50 at the temple, the Indian Express reported.

The bench, also comprising Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, fixed a time limit for the petitioners. Wednesday’s hearing, however, remained inconclusive.

 Moreover, senior advocate JD Gupta, appearing for the Kerala government, said the state would support women’s entry inside Sabarimala. At this, the Supreme Court expressed its wonder at the frequency with which Kerala changed its stand in the matter, Live Law reported.

Kerala minister K. Surendran said the state government was not opposed to entry of women inside the temple. “The state government’s stand is that women should be allowed to offer prayers in Sabarimala Temple. We have filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court explaining our stand. Now it has to take a decision. We are bound to obey its verdict. Devaswom board now has the same opinion as that of government,” Surendran told reporters.

According to NDTV, Justice Nariman said the age notificationis was “arbitrary” as it “leaves out the 9-year-old girl and 53-year-old woman who are menstruating.”

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the historic temple, had earlier in January made it mandatory for women to carry documents to verify their age in a bid to restrict entry of women aged between 10 years and 50 years.

With inputs from PTI