The Supreme Court of India has today strongly expressed its displeasure over the practice that bars women from entering the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The court, under a three-judge Special Bench headed by Justice Deepak Mishra opinioned that such restrictions violate the constitutional rights of women.
“Why can you not let a woman enter? On what basis are you prohibiting women entry… What is your logic? Women may or may not want to go (to worship at Sabarimala), but that is her personal choice,”Justice Mishra asked the Dewaswom Board, which countered this by saying that the restriction is in place since half a century. For this, Justice Mishra lashed back by asking the Dewaswom whether there is any proof to show that women did not enter the shrine over 1500 years ago.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by the Indian Young Lawyers Association and five women lawyers seeking a direction to allow entry of women into the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple without age restriction and said the present rule violates Articles 14 (equality before law), 25 and 26 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution. As per the temple rules, no woman who have attained puberty is allowed inside its compound.
The ban was enforced under Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 (women at such time during which they are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship). The Kerala High Court had upheld the ban in 1991 and directed the Dewaswom Board to implement it.
However, today the Supreme Court bench has questioned this on the grounds of constitutional violation. “Unless you have a constitutional right to prohibit women entry, you cannot prevent them from worshipping at the shrine. There is a difference between a temple meant for the public to worship and a mutt,” it said.