India Supreme Court overturns ban on women at Sabarimala temple

An estimated one million Hindu pilgrims travel to the Sabarimala temple every year to pray to the deity Lord Ayyappan

As per the Rule, 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules of 1965, the entry of the women of aged 10-50 years are restricted to enter the Sabarimala Temple and offer prayer to the deity, Lord Ayyappa.

Justice Indu Malhotra, the only female judge on the Supreme Court's bench delivered her dissent, in which she said religious organizations had the right to manage their own affairs.

The Supreme Court will pronounce its judgment tomorrow in the case relating to the ban on entry of women in Sabarimala temple.

Four judges supported the lifting of ban whereas Justice Indu Malhotra proposed a dissenting opinion supporting the ban. They say it is essential to the rites related to Ayyappan, the temple's chief deity.

"Today's ruling can affect other similar strictures like "Christian women cannot become priests".

India's Supreme Court often makes decisions that its politicians and bureaucrats won't. Women have a constitutional entitlement that their biological processes must be free from social and religious practices, which enforce segregation and exclusion.

TDB president A Padmakumar also told reporters the board will implement the court's verdict. In the past month, the country's top court legalized homosexuality, decriminalized adultery and clipped the scope of a government biometric program, bowing to demands from privacy activists.

The Sabarimala Temple, considered the abode of Lord Ayyappa, is located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Kerala.

BJP, which has been taking heroic credit for taking up the issue of triple talaq in favour of Muslim women, according to sources have "a sense of unease" in the party on the Sabarimala verdict as it overturns age old practices laid down by the Hindu community. "Once you open the temple, then anyone can go to it", CJI Misra had said.

Women were also prevented from entering Mumbai's Haji Ali Dargah mausoleum until the high court scrapped the rule in 2016.

Differing with the majoritarian view, Justice Malhotra, meanwhile, observed that 'religious practices can't exclusively be tested on the basis of the right to equality. The archaic law was also seen as discriminatory toward women because it gave a husband the right to prosecute his wife's lover but did not give women the same right. Justice Nariman had observed that "menstruation is not impure".

Before that on July 26, the Pandalam Royal family challenged the petition seeking entry of women into the temple, terming it "mischievous" on grounds of being against practices of the Hindu faith.

In July, the Supreme Court was told by the temple board that it had no right to interfere with the temple practices.

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