Accepting the judgment, the temple board said, “Since women who believe in Lord Ayyappa will be coming, we have no choice but to welcome them. We are happy that all controversies related to Sabarimala are settled.”A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had reserved its judgement on August 1 after hearing the matter for eight days. The Kerala government, which has been changing its stand on the contentious issue of women of the menstrual age group entering the Sabarimala temple, had on July 18 told the Supreme Court that it now favoured their entry.
The apex 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.
The bench, which also comprised Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had earlier said that the constitutional scheme prohibiting exclusion has “some value” in a “vibrant democracy”. The top court’s verdict would deal with the petitions filed by petitioners Indian Young Lawyers Association and others.
The Kerala government, which has been changing its stand on the contentious issue of women of the menstrual age group entering the Sabarimala temple, had on July 18 told the Supreme Court that it now favoured their entry.
The Sabarimala Temple, considered the abode of Lord Ayyappa, is located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Kerala. It is believed that Lord Ayyappa was born out of the union between Lord Shiva and the mythical Mohini, who is also regarded as an avatar of Lord Vishnu. The temple prohibits the entry of women in their ‘menstruating years’ (between the ages of 10 to 50), on the grounds that it is a place of worship.
Travancore Devaswom Board is said to have the legal authority to manage the Sabarimala temple’s administration. The board has heavily relied on Article 26 of the Constitution, which guarantees a religious denomination of right to manage its own internal religious affairs.
Furthermore, the Sabarimala custom of not allowing entry to women is protected by Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965 ‘”Public Worship Rules’). The rule allows the exclusion of women from public places of worship, if the exclusion is based on ‘custom’.