Supreme Court refers ban on women's entry at Sabarimala to constitution bench

The court is hearing a PIL filed in 2006 by non-profit body Indian Young Lawyers’ Association seeking entry for all women and girls to the Sabarimala shrine

The management of the temple had stated that ban on entry of women was because they can not maintain "purity" on account of menstruation.

The age-old rule of the Sabarimala temple of Kerala, a hill shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, forbids the entry of menstruating women.

"The government's stance is that there should be no gender discrimination with regards to entry in temples, and wold strongly stand with that opinion".

Despite this, Sabarimala remains different from many traditional temples as it never observed caste distinctions, even as most temples in Kerala restricted entry to those belonging to the four varnas of Vedic Hinduism.

The apex court also framed a question about whether restricting the entry of women at the temple was violative of their rights under the Constitution.

The Supreme Court on Friday referred the Sabarimala temple case to a Constitution bench.

The matter was referred to the larger bench by a three-judge bench headed by the chief justice, which has framed questions for the constitution bench to discuss.

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Another women's rights activist is also hoping that the SC rules in the favour of the women as India is a secular country.

When the lord himself says don't allow access to women in the age of 10 and 50, how can the court go into that question. In all other Ayyappa temples in Kerala, other parts of the country and overseas, women are allowed entry without any discrimination. It said that this can not be done under the Constitution.

Questioning the age-old custom, the Supreme Court in July had said, "A temple is a public religious place and can not refuse entry to a woman".

That is, if the Sabarimala devotees are considered a separate denomination, then does this denomination have a right to ban the entry of women and girls? "Every right needs to be balanced but every balancing has its own limitations", the report further added.

The temple authorities have justified the restriction ladies within the 10-50 age group, saying it is a firm practice established in convention.

Another point of contention was that Sabarimala temple does not have its separate administration but is regulated by the statutory Board constituted under Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950.

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