Supreme Court asks women seeking entry into Sabarimala to ‘be patient’
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde justified its stance by adverting to the possibility of violence in case the court passes any order.Updated: Dec 14, 2019 06:14 IST
The order passed by the Supreme Court on November 14 in the Sabarimala review petitions does not operate as a stay on the September 2018 judgment of the top court allowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple, the apex court clarified on Friday.
Despite acknowledging that there is no stay of the 2018 judgment, the court said that it will not pass any directions, including ordering police protection to facilitate entry of women into the temple for the time being since it is an “emotive issue” which could escalate tensions in the state.
This effectively leaves the decision to the discretion of the state and the police.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde justified its stance by adverting to the possibility of violence in case the court passes any order.
“The practice has been going on for thousands of years. Balance of convenience requires that such an order should not be passed in your favour today,” CJI Bobde remarked during the hearing of the petitions filed by two Kerala women seeking police protection to enter the temple.
On September 28, 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a law barring entry of women in the age group of 10-50 years into the hill shrine in Kerala. Subsequently, attempts to implement the judgment of the court met with stiff resistance leading to violence in and around the temple.
More than 50 review petitions were filed against the 2018 judgment which were heard in open court by the Supreme Court. The court eventually passed an order on November 14 stating that the review petitions will be kept pending till a larger bench decides on essential religious practices across religions.
Two women, Bindu Ammini and Fathima AS, then approached the top court after attempts made by them to enter the hill shrine led to physical attacks against them. Ammini, in fact, successfully entered the temple in January this year but a similar attempt made by her last month led to an attack on her using chemicals.
Ammini and Fathima claimed that the state government denied police protection for their pilgrimage to Sabarimala and that this amounted to contempt of court.
CJI Bobde on Friday said that there is possibility of violence and the petitioner should wait till the larger bench decides the issue and asked the petitioners to be patient.
Senior Counsel Indira Jaising, appearing for Ammini, stated that the November 14 order of the court in the review petitions does not operate as a stay [of the 2018 judgment], a submission which the bench did not dispute.
“Of course, it does not. The law is in your favour. We know that,” CJI Bobde said, but recommended prudence and patience. “If matter is decided in your favour (by the larger bench), then we will certainly pass an order. Be a little patient,” he said.
Jaising then requested that the larger bench should be constituted at the earliest to decide the issue. The CJI agreed and said that he will endeavor to constitute a bench at the earliest.
The court, however, agreed that the police protection given to Ammini last year will continue. This security cover will not facilitate her entry into the temple but has been provided taking into account the threats faced by her. Fathima will also be entitled to apply for similar police protection, the court said.
“The oral observation by the CJI that he will constitute a larger bench at the earliest while also ordering that police protection for Bindu will continue is comforting. We are keenly awaiting the hearing before the seven-judge bench,” Bindu Ammini’s lawyer Prashant Padmanabhan told HT.
In September last year, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra struck down Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which was the basis for barring entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 years into the Sabarimala temple.
The rule was held to be violative of the right of Hindu women under Article 25 to practice their religion.
Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress opposed the verdict of the court. Subsequently, attempts by the Left government in Kerala to implement the judgment of the court had met with stiff resistance leading to violence in the state.