For 9-judge Sabarimala bench, CJI suggests Ayodhya hearings as the template
The Supreme Court on Monday gave three weeks to all the lawyers for finalisation of issues relating to Sabarimala and other matters. The order was given by the nine-judge bench which was led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde, and included Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, Mohan M Shantanagoudar, Abdul Mazeer, Sudhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant.
The lawyers will meet on January 17 after the court’s order today.
As soon as the bench assembled for the hearing on Monday, Chief Justice of India (CJI) made it clear, “We are not hearing review petitions, we are only hearing the seven questions referred to larger bench by the five-judge bench.”
There are more than 50 review petitions, which had challenged the judgement of the Supreme Court allowing the entry of women of all ages in the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The CJI said that the bench is thinking of listing all petitions including entry of Muslim women to mosques, female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Borah and entry of Parsi women to fire place.
“All these matters will be heard by this bench after fine tuning of issues,” CJI Bobde said.
He also asked the lawyers to discuss amongst themselves on the issues they will argue on, citing the Ayodhya case where the counsels had done so. “Senior Advocates Rajeev Dhavan and Vaidyanathan had done a great job of this in the Ayodhya matter and we must follow suit,” the CJI said.
The court had, in November last year, asked a larger bench to re-examine various religious issues, including the entry of women into the Sabarimala Temple, and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.
The five-judge bench by a 3:2 split decision had said that certain larger constitutional questions had to be settled before ruling on the review plea. It had framed seven such questions and referred the matter to larger bench.
In its 2018 Sabarimala judgement, the court upheld the right to equality of worship which triggered protests in Kerala, where traditionalists contend that the entry of female worshippers of child-bearing age into the sanctum sanctorum in Sabarimala is sacrilege because Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity, is celibate.