New Delhi: A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, concluded in February the arguments and reserved the judgement on a bunch of petitions seeking review of the apex courts September 2018 verdict allowing the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
As many as 64 petitions, which include review pleas and transfer pleas, have been filed in the apex court challenging its decision on the entry of women into the temple.
It is one of the most important cases, in which verdict is expected to be pronounced before Justice Gogoi retires on November 17.
On September 28, 208, a Constitution bench, headed by the then CJI Dipak Misra, gave a 4:1 verdict to allow entry of women of all ages into the temple, claiming the ban led to gender discrimination. As a result of the verdict, massive protests broke out in Kerala, which led to a political slugfest between the ruling CPI-M and the BJP.
The parties opposed to the judgement filed review petitions which were heard in February by the Justice Gogoi-headed Constitution bench. The bench heard all parties, including the Kerala government, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), Nair Service Society and others.
The court had said that it would pronounce its order on whether to review the judgment or not. It has already been six months since then.
On the last day of hearing, in what appeared to be unprecedented, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) which handles management of the Sabarimala temple, reversed its stand in the top court by expressing its support to the 2018 verdict. The board submitted in the court that discrimination on the grounds of biological attributes was not correct.
The Kerala government had expressed its support for the Supreme Court ruling in 2018, and urged the top court to not consider the petitions seeking the review of the judgement. The Nair Service Society had moved the opposing the court's verdict in 2018, and the Kerala government, TDB and the two women who had entered the shrine had expressed their opposition these review petitions.
Senior advocate K. Parasaran, counsel for the Nair Service Society, had argued before a five-judge bench and urged the court to set aside its earlier verdict.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, counsel for TDB, submitted before the court that the Article 25 (1) equally entitles all persons to practice religion.
"Women cannot be barred on biological attributes. In the Constitution, equality is the dominant theme," said Dwivedi while voicing out board's opinion that people should accept the top court verdict.
The board had earlier consistently opposed the entry of women into the Lord Ayyapa shrine at Sabarimala, and its u-turn on the matter has been brought on record before the court. In the light of these circumstances, it will be interesting to see the outcome of these arguments in the Supreme Court judgement.
The TDB had also opposed a PIL by the Indian Young Lawyers Association. The board said the celibate character of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala temple was a unique religious feature, and it is protected under the Constitution.