Several petitions call the Sabarimala shrine's ban on women between 10 and 50 illegal
In the dispute over the ban on women entering the famous Sabarimala shrine in Kerala, the country's most senior judges will examine whether "a biological factor like menstruation" can be grounds for discriminating against women. The Supreme Court has asked a Constitution bench to decide whether women of all ages should be allowed to enter the shrine.
Several petitions call the shrine's ban on women between 10 and 50 illegal.
The five-judge Constitution bench will examine whether the exclusion of women by religious institutions is legal, given that every Indian has the right to religious freedom and the right to equality.
The Travancore Dewaswom board, which manages the Sabarimala temple, justifies the restrictions on women saying the practice is centuries old and can't be disturbed.
Earlier, the top court had said that refusing entry to women to a public religious place is a violation of their rights.
One of the holiest shrines in India, Sabarimala is dedicated to the worship of Lord Ayyappa. Some say the ban on women is part of an ancient tradition and thinking that women are "unclean" during menstruation. Others argue that the temple's deity is celibate.
The previous Congress government in Kerala led by Oommen Chandy had backed the ban, but the Left government of Pinarayi Vijayan disagrees.
In 2014, the Congress-led government said there was a "mistake" in its own submissions to court earlier and that women cannot be permitted in the temple because of the deity's celibacy vows.
But last November, the Left-led government told the court that women of all ages should be allowed into the shrine.
The temple board has argued that a document submitted in court cannot be altered at the convenience of the party in power.