SC fixes 10-day period for hearing issues of discrimination against women at religious places

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

Chief Justice Bobde says issues will not be allowed to be too broad-based and final arguments in the case should be made pointedly without digressions

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that lawyers had been unable to reach a consensus about framing questions for a nine-judge Bench led by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde to examine in connection with the scope of judicial review when religious faith and women’s equality were at odds as in the Sabarimala case.

Mr. Mehta, during an oral mentioning, suggested the court frame the larger issues involved.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Bobde responded that the issues would not be allowed to be too broad-based and final arguments in the case should be made pointedly without digressions. The CJI indicated that lawyers would have to complete their submissions in 10 days.

On January 13, when the nine-judge Bench assembled, the CJI had asked lawyers involved in the case to hold a conference on January 17 to reframe/add issues to be examined by the nine-judge Bench. The court had posted the case for hearing after three weeks.

The nine-judge Bench had clarified that it would not be restricted to the Sabarimala women entry case but would examine “larger issues” of law arising from practices such as the prohibition of women from entering mosques and temples, female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras and the ban on Parsi women who married inter-faith from entering the fire temple.

Chief Justice Bobde had explained that the basis of the Bench’s judicial enquiry would be seven questions referred to a larger Bench by a five-judge Bench on November 14, 2019. He said the nine-judge Bench was only examining propositions of law raised about religious practices believed to be essential to various religions. The Bench would not go into the individual facts of the various petitions before it.

“We will decide questions of law on women’s entry to mosques/temples, genital mutilation by Dawoodi Bohras, entry of Parsi women who marry outside their community into fire temple. We will not decide individual facts of each case,” Chief Justice Bobde had told lawyers in the courtroom.

On November 14 last year, a five-judge Bench led by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, instead of deciding the Sabarimala review entrusted to it, sought an “authoritative pronouncement” on the Court’s power to decide the essentiality of religious practices. Framing seven questions, the Bench referred them to a seven-judge Bench. These referral questions included whether “essential religious practices” be afforded constitutional protection under Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs).

Chief Justice Bobde, who succeeded Justice Gogoi, formed a Bench of nine rather than seven judges to examine these questions which concern multiple faiths.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 3:55:58 AM |

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