The Supreme Court has unexpectedly changed the Bench hearing a decade-old petition against the restriction on women aged between 10 and 50 from >entering the Sabarimala temple .
Justices Gopala V. Gowda and Kurian Joseph are no more part of the three-judge Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra. Instead, the new Bench will have Justices C. Nagappan and R. Banumathi sitting along with Justice Misra on July 11, 2016.
The earlier three-judge Bench with Justices Gowda and Kurian had already heard the case in part and were well-advanced into the arguments.
This change would mean that the hearings may have to start from scratch for the benefit of the two new judges on board.
The trajectory of the >Sabarimala ban case from 2006 to 2016 is illustrative of the labyrinthine and often snail’s pace of justice delivery mechanism in the Supreme Court resulting in pendency.
The Hindu traced the history of the case from the Supreme Court records to unearth a long-winding route littered with piecemeal hearings and constant changes in judges.
A total of 10 Supreme Court judges, sitting in various combinations, have already heard the case in as many years.
With the current change bringing in Justices Nagappan and Banumathi in place of Justices Gowda and Kurian, the case will see its sixth Bench. The first hearing of the case (titled Indian Young Lawyers Association versus State of Kerala) was on August 18, 2006 before a Bench of then Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices S.H. Kapadia and C.K. Thakker. The Bench issued notice on the petition to Kerala.
Then the case spent almost a year unable to complete pleadings before it came up before a Bench of Justices S.B. Sinha and H.S. Bedi on July 11, 2007.
The next hearing was however before a different Bench, this time comprising Justices Sinha and J.M. Panchal on November 16, 2007, which adjourned the case by four weeks.
The combination of Justices Sinha and Bedi returned to hear the case on December 13, 2007, but listed it for hearing after four weeks.
On March 7, 2008, it was a Bench of Justices Sinha and V.S. Sirpurkar which heard the case. This Bench referred it to a three-judge Bench while observing in its order that the petition poses “questions of some importance to be raised before three-judge Bench”.
The case lay in cold storage for eight years before it was again taken up by a three-judge Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, P.C. Ghose and N.V. Ramana on January 11, 2016.
Four hearings later, Justices Ghose and Ramana were released from the Bench and Justices Gowda and Kurian joined it.
In the last hearing in April 2016, Justice Kurian had queried why women should compel the deity to grant them darshan when the deity does not want it.