On 28/9/2018 a five –judge bench of the Supreme Court by 4-1 majority ruled that females of all ages can enter Sabarimala Temple. It struck the rule that forbade girls above 10 and women below 50 from entering the temple.
CJI Dipak Misra, Justices Rohinton Nariman, Ajay Khanwilkar, Dhananjaya Chandrachud said that the provision in the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which authorised the restriction, violated the right of Hindu women to practice religion. It also said that patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump the right to pray.
They found the practice discriminatory in nature and that it violates Hindu women’s right to pray. They said devotion cannot be subjected to discrimination. “Patriarchal rules have to change. Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump right to pray and practise religion.” “To exclude women of the age group 10-50 from the temple is to deny dignity to women. To treat women as children of lesser god is to blink at the Constitution.” “Religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women and it is also against human dignity.” “Prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries.”
They ruled that devotees of Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination.
Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman Justice on the bench, dissented with others. She said the notions of rationality cannot be brought into matters of religion. She added that the shrine and deity are protected under Article 25 of the Constitution and that it was not up to the court to decide which religious practices should be struck down, except in issues of social evil like ‘Sati’. Worshippers of Sabarimala temple constitute a separate religious denomination.
The matter was debated for years on TV channels. Rahul Easwar has said there is differentiation at Sabarimala, no discrimination. There is one temple where only women are allowed, men not allowed.
The verdict has consequences for others. Indian Young Lawyers Association had petitioned for removal of restriction on females of 10-50 age group. They are not devotees of Ayyappa. We see unrelated people meddling in affairs of life and religion. In Aruna Shanbaug case, Pinki Virani had petitioned for ending life of Aruna Shanbaug though she was not her relative or guardian. Nurses of KEM Hospital were taking care of Aruna Shanbaug. Nurses won the case and Aruna Shanbaug lived for more years.
Recently National Commission for Women wanted ban in Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Leaders of Churches opposed ban. In Catholic Church the commandment is to confess mortal sins once a year. If a person has not committed a mortal sin in a year there is no obligation to confess.
Around 12 years back Kannada actress Jayamala had said she had entered the Sabarimala temple dressed as a man. Some people said the power of the deity had gone down because of that. Recently some people blamed the petition for all females to the temple for flood in Kerala.
Many religions are collectively known as Hindu. Legally, anyone who is not a Christian, Jew, Muslim or Zoroastrian is a Hindu. That includes atheists, agnostics, rationalists, Bahais, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.
Judiciary should not determine what forms an essential practice of religion unless followers of that denomination or religion come to court. Constitution forbids the State from discrimination on the ground of sex. It does not forbid private or religious entities from discrimination on the ground of sex.