"New Problem": Kerala Law Minister On Sabarimala Review Petition Verdict

Amid tight security, thousands of devotees offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple when it opened for the annual two-month-long Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage on Saturday, though police said 10 women were sent back from Pamba base as they were in the "barred" age group.

'New Problem': Kerala Law Minister On Sabarimala Review Petition Verdict

"De jure there is no stay.... but de facto there is a stay," said AK Balan

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala:

Kerala Law Minister AK Balan on Sunday said there was a "de facto" stay of the Supreme Court's September 28 order on Sabarimala women's entry issue and the state government could act only on the basis of the court's verdict.

Amid tight security, thousands of devotees offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple when it opened for the annual two-month-long Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage on Saturday, though police said 10 women were sent back from Pamba base as they were in the "barred" age group.

The five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on November 14 in a 3:2 verdict decided to refer the issue to a larger bench to re-examine religious issues including those arising out of its 2018 verdict lifting a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age visiting the hill top shrine.

"In this case, a constitutional government can act only according to the orders of the court. Now we have a new problem. The question was whether the verdict of November 14 stayed the earlier order. De jure there is no stay.... but de facto there is a stay. The 2018 order has been stayed in effect even though it was not officially mentioned," Mr Balan told reporters.

''De jure'' means existing or holding a specified position by legal right while ''de facto'' means existing or holding a specified position in fact but not necessarily by legal right.

The top court said the seven-judge bench will look into pending questions similar to Sabarimala, related to Muslim women's rights to enter a mosque and permission to Parsi women who marry outside the community to enter its fire temple and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

Though the top court did not stay its September 2018 order allowing entry of women into the Lord Ayyappa temple, the LDF government in Kerala this time said the shrine is not a ground for activism and made it clear it would not encourage women who want to visit the temple for publicity.

The state and temple precincts had witnessed protests by right wing outfits and BJP workers last year after the LDF government had decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict of September 28, 2018 allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.

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