Supreme Court had last year referred the issue to a constitution bench after framing five questions.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has started reading out its verdict on whether women between 10 and 50 years should be allowed to enter Kerala's renowned Sabarimala temple. Women of menstrual age are restricted from entering the temple as its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had reserved its judgement on a bunch of petitions that challenge the ban on entry of women on August 1 after hearing the case for eight days.
Following are the top 10 developments in this story:
- The constitution bench, which also has Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had said that the constitutional scheme prohibiting exclusion has "some value" in a "vibrant democracy".
- During the hearings, the Travancore Devaswom Board which runs the over 800-year-old Lord Ayyappa temple, had told the court that the ban is not anti-women and is voluntarily accepted by them. But the top court underlined that the all customary or religious practices such as a ban on entry of women had to conform to constitutional principles.
- The board had also urged the top court to steer clear of sitting in judgment on sensitive religious matters.
- "They may say my belief is fickle but who decides?" the Travancore Devaswom Board had said during arguments, underlining that a top court verdict on these practices would have far-reaching implications and open a "Pandora's box".
- The court had said the board would have to establish that the practice of banning women of a certain age group was the essential and integral part of the religious practice.
- The top court had also questioned the rationale behind banning the entry of women in the 10-50 age group into the temple in Kerala, saying menstruation may begin before the age of 10 and menopause may hit women much earlier.
- The court also did not appear to agree with the temple board's contention that women of the age group were barred as they cannot observe purity and "penance" for a period of 41 days, a condition for undertaking the pilgrimage.
- The plea challenging the ban has been filed by petitioners Indian Young Lawyers Association and others.
- The Kerala government, which has been changing its stand on the contentious issue, had told the Supreme Court in July that it now favoured their entry.
- The top court had on October 13 last year referred the issue to a constitution bench after framing five "significant" questions including whether the practice of banning entry of women into the temple amounted to discrimination and violated their fundamental rights under the Constitution.
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