- Kerala's Sabarimala temple at centre of huge row over equality vs faith
- Finance Minister says it's a global debate, reconciliation a challenge
- Asks how rights to religious freedom, and liberty override each other
Amid the raging row over the entry of women into Sabarimala temple, Union minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said the debate between "constitutionalists" and "devotees" is not confined to India, it is a global issue. "The constitutionalists believe that first there is the Supreme Court and thereafter there is a god, but devotees feel otherwise... There will always be grey areas and the reconciliation between the two will always be a challenge," Mr Jaitley said at India Ideas Conclave in Delhi.
The finance minister, who has expressed reservations about some of the recent judgments by the Supreme Court, including the one on Sabarimala temple, questioned if one fundamental right can over-ride the other. The same Constituent Assembly which gave the right of equality and dignity, also gave the right to religion and right to administer religious institutions, he said.
When it comes to rituals and traditions, unless a practice is hostile to human values, using one set of fundamental rights to "extinguish" the other will perhaps create further challenges, the BJP leader said. "Both have to harmoniously coexist," the minister said.
The minister's party has solidly backed the case of protesters in Kerala, who, over five days last month, had fought tooth and nail to keep women of reproductive age away from the temple gates. On Saturday, Mr Jaitley's party chief Amit Shah said the party was standing "like a rock" behind devotees who were trying to "save their tradition".
Earlier, Mr Jaitley had said the top court's verdict on the entry of women of all ages into celibate god Lord Ayyappa's temple was "selective". It is easier for societies to reform through their own processes rather than by mandates of governments or others, he said on Saturday.
The Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala has traditionally barred all women aged between 10 and 50 years.
The temple's rule followed the belief that menstruating women are "impure". The custom in the temple was challenged by petitioners who argued that women cannot be denied the constitutional right to worship.
Last month, in a four-one majority verdict, the top court revoked restrictions on women entering the temple following a 20-year legal battle, ruling that patriarchy cannot be allowed to trump faith.