Police stop 12-year-old girl from entering SabarimalaUpdated: Nov 19, 2019 23:56 IST
Thiruvananthapuram: A 12-year-old girl was on Tuesday prevented from trekking to the Sabarimala Temple even as activists and experts criticised the Kerala police for stopping female devotees between the ages of 10 and 50 from praying at the shrine, saying it violated the Supreme Court (SC)’s orders.
The SC on Thursday referred a bunch of pleas seeking a review of its September 2018 order that allowed the entry of women of all ages into the hilltop shrine to a seven-judge bench. In a majority 3-2 verdict, the court did not suspend its earlier order. Justice Rohinton Nariman, who authored the minority dissenting judgment, asked the Kerala government to ensure strict compliance with the 2018 verdict.
News agency Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that the 12-year-old from Puducherry was accompanying her father and other relatives. She was stopped at the shrine’s base camp -- Pamba -- after the police checked her Aadhar card and found that she was 12.
Two women in the barred age group of 10-50 years were stopped from praying at the shrine on Monday. Earlier, five women were sent back from Pamba when the shrine opened on Saturday for the two-month annual pilgrimage season.
Kerala law minister A K Balan on Sunday claimed that there was a de facto stay on the Supreme Court’s September 2018 order. “Since the case was referred to a larger bench, de facto there is a stay. We need more clarity on this. We will go by what the court says,” Balan said on Sunday.
No women in the barred age group turned up at the base camp on Sunday as the police intensified their checking.
State temple affairs minister Kadakampally Surendran has maintained that the state government wants a peaceful pilgrimage season and that it would not provide police cover to women devotees between the ages of 10 and 50.
The 2018 judgment upheld the right to equality of worship and triggered protests in Kerala. Traditionalists contend that the entry of female worshippers in the barred age group age into the sanctum sanctorum in Sabarimala is sacrilege because Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity, is celibate.
Only two women succeeded in praying inside the inner sanctum under police protection after the court’s order last September, even as about a dozen attempted to do so.
Legal experts have said that preventing women from offering prayers at the temple constitutes contempt of the SC.
“The court has held that women have a right to pray at the temple. Even though the court has referred the matter to a seven-judge bench, there is no stay on the earlier judgment,” said Supreme Court advocate Viplav Sharma.