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Writ for women entry in Sabarimala shrine

The petitioners have described the ban imposed on the entry of women in the temple as invalid under the Constitution.
None | By United News of India, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 30, 2006 11:27 PM IST

Indian Young Lawyers Association (IYLA) and a group of women lawyers have filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Kerala Government and the head priest Tantri of Sabari Mala temple to ensure that women devotees are not prevented from entering the shrine.

The petitioners have described the ban imposed on the entry of women in the temple under section 3(b) of Kerala Hindu places of public worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules 1965 as invalid as it violated Articles 14, 15, 25 and 51A (e) of the Constitution of India.

The petition filed through Ravi Parkash Gupta, advocate, has also pleaded that the impugned rule is against Hindu religion which accorded a dignified place to women and does not permit discrimination on the basis of gender.

The respondents in the case are the state of Kerala, Travancore Devaswom Board, the chief priest, Sabari Mala temple, the District Magistrate, Pathanamthitta and the Devaswom Commissioner, Travancore Devaswom Board.

The impugned rule says that women at such times, during which they are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship, would not be allowed in.

By custom, the deity at Sabari Mala is considered as a brahmachari performing penance in the forest. As such, there is no restriction on entry of young girls before puberty and women after menopause.

Recently, a controversy was kicked off by Kannada film actor Jayamala, who claimed to have not only entered the temple but also touched the deity inside the sanctum sanctorum. According to temple rites in Kerala, only priests are allowed in the sanctum sanctorum.

Kerala High Court, in its 1993 judgment, had upheld the validity of the rule banning the entry of women between the age of 10-50 years in the temple. The court had gone to the extent of directing the State of Kerala to provide all assistance including the police forces to implement the ban order.

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