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41-day abstinence for Sabarimala pilgrimage is impossible: SC

A constitution bench led by the CJI is hearing petitions wanting to lift the ban on women devotees aged between 10 and 50. Arguments remained inconclusive and will continue on July 24.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2018 08:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sabarimala,Sabarimala ban,Ban on women entry in Sabarimala
A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Sabarimala temple board’s condition making it mandatory for Lord Ayyappa devotees to observe 41-day abstinence before undertaking the pilgrimage was impossible and was aimed at justifying the age restriction on female devotees, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.

“This is imposition of an impossible condition that one has to observe a 41-day abstinence... You are imposing it. You put 41 days so that a woman can’t go. What you cannot do in law is being done by imposing this condition. You are doing it indirectly,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra remarked.

A constitution bench led by the CJI is hearing petitions wanting to lift the ban on women devotees aged between 10 and 50. Arguments remained inconclusive and will continue on July 24.

The CJI’s observation came after senior advocate Parasaran told the bench that it should not try to change the character of the deity in Sabarimala. CJI Misra said the condition was imposed to make it impossible for women to visit the shrine.

“If you are saying the deity is not a naishtika brahmachari, you are changing its character of God,” Parasaran, appearing for the Nair Service Society, told the CJI after the latter prodded him for a philosophical explanation.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for the Devaswom Board, which runs the over 800-year-old temple, defended the custom and said the restriction was in view of the nature of the installation “which is supposed to depict “naishtika brahmacharya” (perennial brahmacharya)”.

Justice Indu Malhotra asked the petitioner’s counsel about another temple in Kerala that does not allow entry for men. She later pointed out: “Aren’t there similar beliefs in other religions also? I believe it was there in the Old Testament also?” To which Sighvi replied that such practices were there in all cultures and religions.

First Published: Jul 19, 2018 22:48 IST