- Top court ends ban on entry of women aged 10-50 at Sabarimala Temple
- Justice Indu Malhotra disagrees with four other judges on the bench
- Says right to equality can't override right to worship
Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman in the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court that ruled today that women of all ages must be allowed in Kerala's renowned Sabarimala temple, gave a dissenting judgment, disagreeing with her peers.
"The practice of age restriction on women entry to Sabrimala temple can't be treated as an essential religious practice," said the court in a majority four-one judgment, ending a ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years.
Justice Indu Malhotra, however, said that issues which have deep religious connotation should not be tinkered with to maintain secular atmosphere in the country.
"It is not for court to interfere in religious practices even if it appears discriminatory. Notions of rationality cannot be brought into matters of religion," she said.
She was of the view that it is not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down except in issues of social evil like 'Sati'.
"An equality doctrine cannot override the fundamental right to worship under Article 25. Notions of rationality cannot be brought into matters of religion," Justice Malhotra said.
She added that the issue in this case not limited to Sabarimala only. It will have far reaching implications for other places of worships, she said.
Reacting to the dissenting view, senior lawyer Indira Jaising said, "While I disagree with Justice Indu Malhotra, she has an opinion which must be read, I am sad though that a dissent in Shabrimalai came from a woman judge."
For centuries, women of menstrual age were restricted from entering the temple as its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate. A number of petitions had challenged the restrictions on the entry of women.
The head priest of Sabarimala, Kandaru Rajeevaru, said: "We are disappointed but accept the Supreme Court verdict on women entry."
(With inputs from PTI)
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