SC Verdict On Sabarimala Is Progressive Step Towards Gender Equality: Congress

Hindu pilgrims queue outside the Sabarimala Temple to offer prayers

Hindu pilgrims queue outside the Sabarimala Temple to offer prayers

The top court revoked restrictions on women entering the temple following a 20-year legal battle, ruling that patriarchy can not be allowed to trump faith. "Biological or physiological reasons can not be accepted in freedom for faith", the Chief Justice said. The 27-year-old case which depended on the judgment whether to allow women between 10 to 50 years of age into the temple, has turned out to be a positive verdict for the women devotees.

Noting that the judgement marked the culmination of a long-drawn legal battle, Kerala Dewaswom minister Surendran said it was now for the TDB to implement it and to ensure protection of the women visiting the shrine. It's up to the worshippers, not the court to decide what's religion's essential practice'.

"Religion can not be a cover to deny women the right to treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at constitutional morality", Justice DY Chandrachud said on Thursday while reading out the judgement.

Justice Misra, on his part, said: "Devotees of Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination".

The judge discusses the history, the constitutional assembly debates, in relation to Article 17 and observes that background of Article 17 lies in protecting the dignity of those who have been victims of discrimination, prejudice and social exclusion.

"Constitutional morality requires the harmonisation or balancing of all such rights, to ensure that the religious beliefs of none are obliterated or undermined".

Supreme Court allows women of all age groups to enter the temple, thus ending the age-old restriction.

The case made headlines last month when a regional newspaper editor blamed devastating floods in Kerala on women wanting to enter Sabarimala. Meanwhile, they also lashed out against RSS for supporting the court's verdict.

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"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 Chandrachud.

In the ruling, Justice Chandrachud criticised this diktat, saying: "The ban says presence of women deviates from celibacy".

Kandaru Rajeevaru, the head priest of Sabarimala, said: "We are disappointed but accept the Supreme Court verdict on women entry".

While the government has welcomed the verdict, hailing it as a victory for women's rights, the ruling has sparked a debate among different sections.

Subsequently, it went into cold storage before it came up for hearing seven years later, on January 11, 2016.

The country's secular courts have been intervening recently in cases where a religion's gender beliefs were seen as discriminatory. This is because Ayyappan is a Bramhachari (celibate).

Women's rights lawyer Flavia Agnes said "spaces have to be created for judicial intervention" but warned that determining what is the core or essential practices of religions was riddled with complexities.

During the course of the hearing, CJI Misra had pointed out that since the Sabarimala temple drew funds from the Consolidated Fund, and had people coming from all over the world, it was qualified to be called a "public place of worship". Now the country's apex court has put a full stop to it with its historic verdict.

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