Sabarimala issue explosive now: Supreme Court

Activist Trupti Desai and her team outside the Office of the District Police Chief (Kochi City). File

Activist Trupti Desai and her team outside the Office of the District Police Chief (Kochi City). File   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu


Court asks women petitioners to wait.

The Supreme Court on Friday advocated patience to women of menstruating age fighting for their right to enter and worship at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The law was in their favour and any judicial order at this time may spark violence. The situation was already “explosive,” the court said.

Two women in their 30s rccently approached the court with a plea to direct the police to provide them protection for their intended pilgrimage to the famed forest temple in the ongoing season. They pointed out that a Constitution Bench lifted the ban on women of menstruating age to enter the temple in a majority judgment on September 28, 2018. The State’s refusal to provide them protection was in gross contempt of the judgment, they argued.

On November 14, a Bench of five judges, sitting in review of the judgment, referred the fundamental question of whether a woman’s right to worship was subservient to age-old religious customs, faith and traditions, however unequal, to a seven-judge Bench. The Review Bench, however, did not stay the verdict allowing women in the 10 to 50 age to enter the temple.

‘Wrong message’

Senior advocates Indira Jaising and Colin Gonsalves, for Bindhu Ammini and Rehana Fathima, said the court’s silence now would send a wrong message to the country.

“We know the law and the law is in your favour. But the situation is very emotive, that is why this court thought it best to refer the issue to a larger Bench... Please be patient,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde advised.

But the lawyers insisted that there was no stay on the September 28 judgment.

The CJI said, “Yes, there is no doubt. But equally without doubt is the fact that the issue has been referred to a larger Bench. I have not constituted that Bench... The situation today is as it existed for a 1,000 years. For balance of convenience, we will not pass any order today. If the case is finally decided in your [women’s] favour, we will ensure that every woman goes to Sabarimala. We will jail anybody who will not comply with the law... The situation has become explosive. We do not want a situation now where violence erupts. So, yes, there is a judgment [September 28], but it is equally true that the issue has been referred.”

Chief Justice Bobde, indicating that any court would have agreed with what the lawyers were arguing for, said, “We know what you are saying is what any court would pass. But we are using our discretion here”.

When the lawyers asked if the two women could go ahead with their pilgrimage, Chief Justice Bobde said, “We are not passing any order stopping her. If she can happily go and pray at the temple, we are not stopping her. We are not passing any order...”

“So Your Lordships are saying there is no stay on the Sabarimala judgment [allowing women of menstruating age entry],” Ms. Jaising asked the Bench.

“We are not saying anything. We have already said there is no stay,” the CJI responded.

The court said the review petitions in the Sabarimala case would be listed as soon as the seven-judge Bench gave its judgment.

“I will be constituting the seven-judge Bench at the earliest,” Chief Justice Bobde said.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 1:33:16 AM |

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