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Monday, Dec 09, 2019

Four months after landmark verdict, Supreme Court begins hearing on Sabarimala review petitions

The top court last September had given a ruling ending the traditional ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age to the Sabarimala shrine.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2019 10:54 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Devotees climb over the holy eighteen golden steps to worship diety of Hindu god Ayyapa at a temple premises in Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala on November 16.
Devotees climb over the holy eighteen golden steps to worship diety of Hindu god Ayyapa at a temple premises in Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala on November 16.(HT File Photo/Vivek Nair )

Five judges of the Supreme Court began hearing petitions challenging its verdict that opened the doors of Sabarimala temple to women, setting off massive street protests in Kerala by traditionalists and triggering a political slugfest between the CPI(M) and the BJP.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is heading a five-judge constitution bench that is hearing the case which was scheduled to be heard on January 22 but had to be postponed as Justice Indu Malhotra was on medical leave.

The top court’s verdict last September had sparked major protests by devotees of Lord Ayyappa against the entry of women and girls between the ages of 10 and 50 years on grounds that women of reproductive age should not be allowed into the temple dedicated to the celibate god.

Read more: Sabarimala case: A chronology of events

Two women who eventually managed to enter the temple in January have been threatened and one of them was even attacked allegedly by her mother-in-law.

On Monday, the CPI(M)-led Kerala Government retracted from its earlier statement that 51 women had entered the Ayyappa temple is Sabarimala saying it has proof to show only two women actually entered the shrine.

In the report submitted to the state government by the temple executive officer only two names figured - Bindu Ammini and Kanakagurga - who trekked to the temple in the early hours of January 2 under heavy police protection. A week after this, the government had claimed a Sri Lankan pilgrim Sasikala (48) also made it to the shrine but her name was not there in the list.

Read more| Sabarimala row: All you need to know about the historic temple

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s determination to facilitate women’s entry into the temple triggered a political war between the state government and the opposition parties, including the BJP and the Congress.

Vijayan has maintained that he is only following the Supreme Court’s directions.

BJP supporters in Kerala have openly supported devotees opposing the entry of women into the temple.

Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Kerala government for its handling of the Sabarimala controversy, saying the Communists didn’t respect India’s culture and spiritual traditions. He also slammed the Congress for taking multiple stands on the issue.

The Congress had come under flak after Rahul Gandhi who had earlier argued that all women should be allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple changed his stance saying he cannot take an “open-and-shut position” on the issue as there is validity in the arguments of both the sides.