Indu Malhotra | The lone woman judge who dissented on Sabarimala case

Supreme Court opens Sabarimala Temple gates to women of all ages

Supreme Court opens Sabarimala Temple gates to women of all ages

Four judges agreed with the verdict but Justice Indu Malhotra disagreed with the rest of them. Out of the judgements, CJI Dipak Misra wrote one for himself and for Justice Khanwilkar. The board will have to see whether women will be able to enter this pilgrimage season or not.

The court had set up the Constitution bench in October 2017 to consider whether the practice is discriminatory and hence in violation of fundamental rights, or if it qualifies as an "essential religious practice" under Article 25 of the Constitution, which allows the freedom to follow religion in a manner one chooses. "Biological or physiological reasons can not be accepted in freedom for faith", the Chief Justice said.

During the hearings, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the over 800-year-old Lord Ayyappa temple, had told the court that the ban is not anti-women and is voluntarily accepted by them. No physiological and biological factor can be given legitimacy if it doesn't pass the test of conditionality.

Exclusion of women because she menstruates is utterly unconstitutional, said Justice Chandrachud.

He added that: "the right to practice religion is available to both men and women".

In a dissenting judgement, Justice Indu Malhotra said that it was not for courts to decide which religious practices are to be struck down except in cases of social evils like Sati.

"The Deity's concept was not taken into consideration", said Rahul Easwar, president of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena (Ayyappa Religious Army), that claims to protect the interests of the Lord Ayyappa. We will certainly file a review petition.

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"The right of an individual to worship a specific manifestation of the deity, in accordance with the tenets of that faith or shrine, is protected by Article 25 (1) of the Constitution".

The matter, which witnessed shifting stands of the Kerala government with the change of governments, saw the Left Front government telling the court that Lord Jagannath's temple, Kash Vishwnath temple and similar religious places are not denominational temples but the Ramakrishna Mission was a denominational entity. This is placing the burden of a men's celibacy on women.

The top court heard the PIL filed by the non-profit body Indian Lawyers Association which sought the entry of all women and girls to the temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappan and challenged Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship Rules 1965.

India's Supreme Court in New Delhi, where a string of verdicts in recent weeks have granted more rights to women, gay couples and religious minorities as he prepares to retire from the bench next month.

The higher bench had reserved its judgment in the case on August 2. The Bench refused to maintain the Status-Quo on this issue citing Religious feelings.

The Supreme Court has said that devotion can not be subjected to gender discrimination. It also stigmatises women as "lesser beings".

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