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Supreme Court declines urgent hearing for Sabarimala verdict review

Four review petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court against its order that allowed entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2018 12:15 IST
HT Correspondent
Sabarimala,Supreme Court,urgent hearing
There have been street protests against the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to enter Sabarimala temple, and various groups have demanded that the Kerala government file a petition too.(Reuters)

Review petitions filed against the verdict allowing women into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple will be heard in due course, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, declining a request by petitioners for an urgent hearing, according to news agency ANI.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi also declined to stay the verdict by a five-judge constitution bench of the court. Lawyer Mathews Nedumpara had requested the Chief Justice to permit early listing of the case.

Four review petitions have been filed in the top court against its order that allowed the entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. There have also been street protests against the verdict and various organisations have demanded that the Kerala government file a petition also.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has, however, rejected the demand and accused the Congress and the BJP of not sticking to their stand on the issue.

“Congress and BJP central leaders have called the verdict historic and path-breaking. Now they see an opportunity to exploit the situation and they are whipping up passions,” Vijayan said on Monday.

Nair Service Society, a forum of the influential Nair community; Delhi-based Chetana Conscience of Women; Pandalam Palace, considered the custodians of the temple; and an association of women devotees, People for Dharma, approached the court against the ruling that ended a centuries-old ban on the entry of women between 10 years and 50 years into the 800-year-old shrine in south Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district as its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be celibate.

The review petitions called the majority judgment erroneous, saying it ventured beyond the questions of law and delved into the question of customs. Events after the judgment “clearly demonstrate that overwhelmingly large number of women are supporting the custom” of prohibiting the entry of women of menstruating age group into the temple, the petitions said.

On 28 September, the top court ruled in a 4-1 majority verdict that divinity and devotion cannot be subject to the rigidity and stereotypes of gender. The court said the exclusion on the basis of biological and physiological features was unconstitutional and discriminatory because it denied women the right to be treated as equals.

Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the bench, dissented and found the practice to be integral to “essential religious practice”, and said “notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion by courts”.

Pinarayi Vijayan has stressed that changes in a social system were bound to face resistance, adding that his elected government was duty-bound to implement the Supreme Court order.

Vijayan’s Left Front government invited Sabarimala temple’s priests and the Pandalam royal family for talks on Monday to defuse tension, but both declined the invitation.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has decided to organise a protest march from October 10-15 from Pandalam, around 100km north of Thiruvananthapuram, to the state secretariat in the capital. Several outfits threatened to block the entry of women into the shrine on October 18, when the temple will open for monthly ‘pooja’.

First Published: Oct 09, 2018 12:09 IST