Sabarimala verdict: Key points in Supreme Court’s decision to lift the ban on women’s entry

The five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict, said that banning the entry of women into the shrine is gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women.
Sabarimala verdict: Key points in Supreme Court’s decision to lift the ban on women’s entry
File photograph of devotees at Sabarimala temple


The court passed four sets of separate judgements on a clutch of pleas challenging ban on the entry of women of menstrual age in Kerala's Sabarimala temple saying law and society are tasked with the task to act as levellers.
While Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud concurred with the CJI and Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting verdict.
'Banning entry of women to shrine is gender discrimination'
Chief Justice Dipak Misra said patriarchal notion cannot be allowed to trump equality in devotion. He termed Religion is a way of life basically to link life with divinity and so devotion cannot be subjected to discrimination. The CJI said practice of exclusion of women of 10-50 age group cannot be regarded as essential religious practice and Kerala law denies rights to women on ground of physiological reason 
'Not backed by Article 25 and 26'
Justice RF Nariman said the Sabarimala temple custom barring women of 10-50 age is violative of Article 25 (Clause 1) and Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (authorisation of entry) Rules, 1965.
'Religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women'
Justice DY Chandrachud said religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women and it is also against human dignity. The actual prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries. Any custom or religious practice if violates dignity of women by denying them entry due to her physiology is unconstitutional. Such exclusion of women is violative of right to liberty, dignity and equality.
Justice Indu Malhotra dissents
Justice Malhotra, the lone woman judge in the bench, passed a dissenting judgement and said that issues which have deep religious connotation should not be tinkered with to maintain secular atmosphere in the country.
She said that it is not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down except in issues of social evil like 'Sati'. Right to equality conflicts with right to worship of devotees of Lord Ayyappa according to Justice Malhotra.
She said the issue in this case not limited to Sabarimala only. It will have far reaching implications for other places of worships. She also said lord Ayyappa devotees form separate religious denomination worthy of protection which the CJI disagreed with.
'Disappointed but will accept Supreme Court verdict'
The Supreme Court's verdict allowing entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple, was disappointing, but the shrine board will accept it, Sabarimala head priest Kandararu Rajeevarau said.
Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) president, A Padmakumar said the board had informed the court that they wanted to continue with the existing ritual practices, but now they have no other option but to implement the verdict, he said, will take steps to execute the apex court directive.
It will study the judgement seriously and go for a review petition after getting support from other religious heads, he said.

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