The Supreme Court on Thursday stood by its earlier ruling to allow women of all ages to enter the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. In fact, the five-judge bench, led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, has now referred the case to a larger seven-bench judge.
This bench will draft guidelines and clarify matters of the right to equality and right to religious denominations.
The judicial policy will guide the Court in deciding future cases that may arise out of a clash between the right to equality and a believer’s right to follow their customs, stated the bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
Women’s rights activist Trupti Desai said that until the seven-bench decides on the verdict, women should be allowed inside the temple. Having made an unsuccessful attempt to visit the temple last year, she promised to worship at the shrine on Saturday.
“What I understand is that till the court order comes, entry is open for women and no one should protest against it. People who say that there is no discrimination at all are wrong because women of specific ages are not allowed there. I am going to offer prayers on November 16,” she said.
The decision is another addition to a slew of rulings passed over the last decade, as the Indian apex court weighed in on the dated ban on women and girls aged 10 to 50.
In 1991, the Kerala High Court ruled against the entry of menstruating women into Lord Ayyappa’s shrine. The Indian Young Lawyers Association petitioned the Supreme Court to allow women inside in 2006, which arrived at its decision only last September.
In a 4-1 majority, the Supreme Court allowed entry to all women on September 28, 2018, stating the ban is legally unfair on Hindu women. However, this has caused much uproar among Hindu men, and the then-government of Kerala had requested some more time to implement the verdict.
The Sabarimala issue escalated when Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga entered the shrine last September. Devout Hindus, they are also the first women of menstruating age to enter the temple after the ban was lifted.