Supreme Court paves the way for women's entry into Sabarimala Temple

Women of all age groups can enter the Sabarimala Temple after Supreme Court highlights that right to worship cannot be subject to gender discrimination.

Supreme Court paves the way for women's entry into Sabarimala Temple
File photo

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday opened the doors for entry of women - long prohibited - in the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. Women between 10 and 50 years of age have so far been prohibited on grounds of 'purity' owing to menstruation.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed that subversion of women rights under the garb of physiological phenomenon cannot be allowed. "Devotees of Lord Ayyappa are Hindus, don't constitute a separate religious denomination. No physiological and biological factor can be given legitimacy if it doesn't pass the test of conditionality. Restrictions put by Sabarimala temple can't be held as essential religious practice," he said. "The practice of barring women in age group of 10-50 to go inside the temple is violative of constitutional principles."

CJI Misra also said that the right to worship cannot be subjected to gender discrimination and that in a country where women are worshipped as goddesses, such restrictions cannot be placed.

CJI Misra also said that four of five judges were of the same opinion in the case with only one dissenting opinion, that of Justice Indu Malhotra. "Religious practices can't solely be tested on the basis of the right to equality. It's up to the worshippers, not the court to decide what's religion's essential practice," she said.

Friday's ruling, nonetheless, would be a major shot in the arm for women activists who have been demanding that they cannot be barred from visiting the temple. Trupti Desai, one of the most vocal activists in favour of women's entry at Sabarimala, welcomed the SC ruling. "There is a need to change how people think. Age-old practices cannot always be right. Today's ruling is a big win for women everywhere," she said.

Not everyone is celebrating though.

Travancore Devaswom Board president A Padmakumar has said a review petition would be filed after getting support from other religious heads. (Read full report here)