SC Ends Centuries-Old Ban On Entry Of Women Of Menstruating Age Into Sabarimala Temple

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court said that exclusion on the basis of biological and physiological features was unconstitutional and discriminatory because it denied women the right to be treated as equals hence ending a centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra in a 4:1 verdict held that restrictions on the entry of women in religious places for physiological reasons lowered her dignity. CJI Misra, justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud ruled against the restriction, declining to accept it as an essential practice of a denominated religious group and said it was a form of untouchability.

“The dualism that persists in religion by glorifying and venerating women as goddesses on one hand and by imposing rigorous sanctions on the other hand in matters of devotion has to be abandoned. Such a dualistic approach and an entrenched mindset results in indignity to women and degradation of their status,” said the judgment by CJI Misra,who wrote for justice Khanwilkar and himself.

The dissenting judge, justice Indu Malhotra, warned against judicial review of religious faith and belief and insisted on the need for balance between two rights – equality and the freedom to profess one’s religion. “Notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion by courts,” she said.

The majority judgment struck down as unconstitutional Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 framed in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 4 of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965 .

The top court overruled the Kerala high court’s 1991 judgment upholding the restriction on the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50. The HC had accepted the contention that the ‘Naisthik Brahmachari’ nature of the presiding deity, Lord Ayappa, was enough to impose this restriction .

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