SC verdict leaves ball in govt.’s court

Annual pilgrim season begins at Sabarimala on Sunday

The decision of the five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court to refer all petitions seeking review of its earlier verdict of September 28, 2018, permitting entry for women of all ages to the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple has ultimately left the ball in the court of the State government and the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB).

The apex court’s decision has much relevance at a time when the two-month-long annual pilgrim season begins on Sunday.

Sabarimala had witnessed tumultuous protests and violence last season when a few young women activists with police protection tried to enter the temple against the backdrop of the apex court verdict. The activists had to face stiff resistance from the devotees who had blocked their way under the banner of Sabarimala Aachara Samrakshana Samithi.

The main base camp at Nilackal had witnessed violent protests leading to lathicharge, injuring many pilgrims, police personnel, and media persons. Hundreds of devotees, including BJP State general secretary K. Surendran, were arrested and sent to jail.

The agitation spearheaded by Sangh Parivar organisations continued for about three months till the culmination of the pilgrim season. Meanwhile, two young women, Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, managed to pay a `flash visit’ to the temple under the cover of night. This incident with the help of police had invited State-wide protests against the State government and the TDB.

The issue was badly politicised by the BJP and the Congress. The ruling CPI(M) had suffered a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections held in May.

However, the government and the LDF appeared to have softened its stand on Sabarimala that ultimately helped it to win a majority of seats in the Assembly bypolls held in October.

Now with the Supreme Court referring the review petitions to a seven-judge Bench, the sensitive issue may prolong for some more time.

Experts pointed out an irony in the verdict. “If young woman activists are permitted to enter the temple on the basis of the earlier verdict and the seven-judge bench finds it a gross violation of the religious practice, who will be made answerable for the injustice done to the Hindu place of worship?’’ they ask.

Govind Bharathan, senior lawyer, Kerala High Court, says referring the review petition to a higher bench means “the majority judges are doubtful of the principles laid down by the apex court in 2018. Hence, the authorities concerned should wait for some more time, till the decision of the seven-member bench, for taking any future course of action,” he said.

Rajagopalan Nair, former TDB president and legal expert, said the interim order of the apex court was still pending. The government should seek the court’s clarification in this regard, lest it could lead to unavoidable litigations, he said.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 11:23:48 AM |

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