Mumbai: In a major development, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday backed the entry of women inside the core shrine area of Shani Shingnapur temple located in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
Responding to a bunch of petitions challenging the ban on women's entry inside the ancient temple, the court observed that ''women cannot be barred from entering the Shani Shinganapur temple.''
''Even women can go where men can,'' the high court said.
There is no law preventing entry of women, if men are allowed, even women should, the high court maintained.
The Bombay HC, while agreeing to hear the matter on April 1, also asked the Maharashtra government led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to make a statement before it on the same day.
The ruling came several weeks after a bunch of Public Interest Litigations (PIL) were filed in the Bombay High Court challenging the century-old tradition of prohibiting entry of women inside the core shrine area of Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
One such PIL was filed by two women activists - Vidya Bal and Nilima Varta – sought directions to the state government and temple authorities to ensure that the prohibition is set aside and women are given entry not just inside the temple but also in the sanctum sanctorum.
The petition claimed that the prohibition is arbitrary, illegal and violative of the fundamental rights of a citizen. Besides, such a prohibition also encourages gender disparity, the petition said.
Women, as per an over century-old tradition, were not allowed to enter the Shani temple till 2011.
However, after rationalists carried out mass awareness campaigns, women were allowed to enter the temple but are prohibited from the core shrine area.
However, women are still not permitted to climb up the 'chauthara' (platform) where the rock idol of Lord Shani is installed.
On January 26, around 400 women activists, who tried to head for Shani Shinganapur temple in Ahmednagar district defying prohibitory orders to worship the deity, were detained at Supa village about 70 kms from the temple and later released.
This came after a woman, apparently in ignorance, stepped onto to the unlocked platform last year and a purification process was performed by villagers, angering women activists and several sections of the society.