Shiv Sena calls for hartal in Kerala against SC ruling on Sabarimala

The Supreme Court ended the entry ban on women of menstruating age at the Sabarimala temple.

Devotees of Lord Ayyappa are planning on filing a review plea on the judgment Akhila Bharatiya Ayyappa Seva Sangham, an organisation for Ayyappa devotees across the country said that the permitting in the menstruating age in the temple dilutes it sanctity, according to the Firstpost. She plans to visit the temple a year from now, when she returns to India.

Lifting the ban, the Chief Justice of India said "restrictions put by Sabarimala temple can't be held as essential religious practice". On Thursday, the court decriminalised adultery and earlier this month scrapped a law banning gay sex.

The judge discusses the history, the constitutional assembly debates, in relation to Article 17 and observes that background of Article 17 lies in protecting the dignity of those who have been victims of discrimination, prejudice and social exclusion.

The BBC's Soutik Biswas says such a stream of judgements leading up to a judge's retirement in the top court is not unusual. And since the Supreme Court is also the custodian of the Constitution, it would be ignoring two of its most important duties if it let religion dictate rights.

Justice Indu Malhotra was the only dissenting member on the bench.

Justice Malhotra said the issues raised have deep religious connotation and should not be tinkered with to maintain secular atmosphere in the country. Sabarimala Temple is run by the Devaswom Board. "To suggest that women can not keep the Vratham is to stigmatize them and stereotype them as being weak and lesser human beings". The Sabarimala verdict will only encourage intervention by judiciary in cases where religion crosses a line and interferes with human rights.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar said devotion can't be subject to gender discrimination, India Today reports.

CJI Misra added, "Women no way inferior to men". "I don't think any woman devotee of Lord Ayyappa, who knows the customs and rituals at Sabarimala, would violate them even", the Tantri said.

The party was conspicuously silent on Friday after the court struck down the ban: a reticence which contrasted starkly with the enthusiastic welcome it accorded to the other pronouncements of the apex court namely the verdict of rejecting SIT probe in the case of the 5 activists with alleged Maoist links and the Ayodhya verdict. Menstrual cycles have been treated as a taboo by attaching a stigma to it. Years of institutionalisation of biases against menstruating women have gone on to deny them the constitutionally guaranteed right to equality.

But supporters of the ban argued that the practice had been in effect for centuries, and there was no need to change it now.

Women in India have been intensifying campaigns in recent years to be allowed to enter Hindu temples and other religious sites.

Nikita Azad, who started the campaign, told the BBC this is a historic judgement. "A welcome and progressive move towards gender equality by Supreme Court in Sabarimala".

Supreme Court advocate Avani Bansal is confident that the SC would rule in favour of women being allowed to enter the temple.

  • Jon Douglas