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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

SC decision on women at Sabarimala: Court verdicts that allowed female devotees at temples

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra framed several questions to be dealt with by the constitution bench, including whether the Sabarimala temple can restrict women’s entry.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2017 11:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sabarimala priests perform Kalalabhishekam at Sannidhanam in Sabarimala.
Sabarimala priests perform Kalalabhishekam at Sannidhanam in Sabarimala.(PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court referred to a constitution bench on Friday the matter pertaining to a ban on the entry of women at Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

The apex court framed several questions, including whether the temple can restrict women’s entry, to be dealt with by constitution bench.

Here are two previous landmark verdicts by courts over the issue of female worshippers being barred in religious places:

Haji Ali Dargah

In August last year, the Bombay high court struck down a ban on women’s entry into the Haji Ali Dargah’s inner sanctum.

The court said the ban violated women’s fundamental rights and asked the state to ensure protection for female devotees, granting the trust six weeks to implement the order.

A bench of justice VM Kanade and Revati Mohite-Dere said the ban was against Article 14 (equality before law), Article 15 (no discrimination on sex, gender, religion etc) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.

The court directed the Haji Ali trust to grant access inside the shrine to “women at par with men” but the latter indicated it will appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court.

The decision came on a petition by a Muslim women’s foundation that asked the court to restore the shrine’s regulations to 2012, when women were allowed into the sanctum sanctorum albeit through separate queues and at restricted timings.

Shani Shingnapur temple

In April 2016, dozens of activists of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade set off for Shani Shingnapur temple of Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district after the Bombay high court ruled that it was the fundamental right of women to go into places of worship.

Hearing a plea challenging the prohibition on women’s entry, the HC said: “You have to ensure their access. Provisions in law already allow this. Nothing prevents women from entering. Police and collector will have to act against those preventing their entry.”

Days after the HC ruling, the temple trust announced that women will be allowed to enter the temple and pray at the inner sanctum.

The Shani Shingnapur temple had barred women for centuries from the inner sanctum that is dedicated to Shani, or Saturn. It is one of a handful of Hindu temples in the country that barred the entry of women.

The first two women to enter the temple on Saturday -- Pushpak Kewadkar and Priyanka Jagtap -- climbed on the ‘Shani’ platform where the black stone idol is placed.

Later, Bhumata Ranragini Brigade president Desai and her associates reached the temple, offered prayers and participated in the daily “aarti”.

While the incident triggered similar campaigns at other famous shrines in the country, an HT report showed that a year later, not much had changed on the ground.

Locals in Shani Shignapur are back with their age-old practice with women still staying away from the deity, a tradition they still consider should be followed by all.

“None of us from the district have climbed the platform and touched the deity. We don’t oppose any woman coming from outside and entering into the inner sanctum but why should we be forced to break the tradition,” asked Anita Shete, head of the Shani Temple Trust.

With inputs from agencies

First Published: Oct 13, 2017 11:15 IST

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