Sabrimala is a temple which is dedicated to Shasta in Pathanamthitta District in Kerela. Women and girls of reproductive age were traditionally not permitted to worship there, as Shasta is a celibate deity. A Kerela high court stated legal justification for this and from 1991, women were legally forbidden to enter the temple.
What is the Sabrimala case?
A group of five women lawyers has challenged Rule 3(b) of the Kerela Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules,1965, which authorises restriction on women “of menstruating age”. They moved to the apex court after the Kerela High Court upheld that only the priest was empowered to decide on traditions.
Petitioner’s representative i.e Senior Adv. Indira Jaising said the restrictions went against articles 14,15 and 17 of the Indian Constitution. She also argued that the custom is discriminatory in nature and stigmatised women, that women should be allowed pray at any place of their choice.
But the temple management contended in the court that they have empowered to frame rules and regulations for the shrine without the interference of the state as Ayyaoppa devotees from a denomination — a body with a definite identifiable character. They also said that it was not discriminatory as the tradition was born from that belief only i.e the diety is of ‘naishtika brahmachari‘ which is also called eternal celibate.
Case name: Indian Young Lawyers Association and others. V. The state of Kerala and ors.
Sabrimala shrine is a Hindu temple in the State of Kerela which is dedicated to Lord Ayyappan an eternal celibate. It is located at Sabrimala in the district of Kerela. The Sabrimala temple is managed by the Travancore Devaswom Board and TBD restricted menstruating women between the age of 10 and 50 years from entering the temple.
The supreme court got writ jurisdiction over the matter by the way of its original jurisdiction under article 32 of the Indian Constitution.
- Whether the Ban of entry of women of menstruating age between 10-50 years is violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution.
- Whether prohibition of women based on biological factors can be protected by morality under article 25?
- Whether such practice of excluding women constitute as an essential practice under article 25?
- Whether the idea of being impure during menstruation is violative of article 17?
- Whether the state can make law under article 25?
- Whether Sabrimala worshippers constitute a religious denomination under article 26?
- Whether rule 3 of Kerela Hindu Public place violates article 14?
- Whether religious denomination which is managed by a statutory board is violating articles 14, 15(3), 39(a), and 51(A) ?
Nature of the issues:
The whole case is about the ban on the entry of women into temples which violated their fundamental rights. In this, we will also see how judges have addressed all the issues touching on the constitutional elements and morality of religion.
Reasoning and decisions:
Chief Justice Deepak Mishra, on behalf of Justice Khanwilkar and himself, remarked that religion is a way of self-respect of an individual and a gender-biased exercise based on exclusive of one gender in favour of another. He also stated that the practice of disbarring women between ages 10-50 yrs implemented by sabrimapa temple stripped women of their freedom of worship under Article 25.
He also annulled Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public worship rules of 1965. He was in favour that the rule violates of the constitution.
Justice Rohinton Nariman also stated an opinion in accordance with that of Justice Mishra. He also decided that the devotees of ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious sect. He told that people as Hindus worship the idol ayyappa . Held that Sabrimala temple’s denominational freedom under Article 26. He concluded that Ayyappan’s custom of debarring women, belonging to the age of 10-50 yrs. The Sabrimala temple is unconstitutional.
Justice DY Chandrachud held that debarring of women belonging to the group of 10-50 yrs. by Sabarimala temple was contrary to constitutional morality. He decided that morality conceived under Articles 25 and 26 of the constitution cannot have affected fundamental rights guaranteed under this article.
He concluded that untouchability was not comprehended in a restrictive manner and gave expansion to this. He held that Article 17 is a powerful article in Indian Constitution and according to that women can’t be debarred from entering the temple.
Justice Indu Malhotra, according to her the petition doesn’t deserve to be entertained. She also said that judges should not impose their personal views, rationality or morality when it comes to the form of worship of the deity, dissenting with the majority verdict to open up the Sabarimala temple for women belonging to all age groups. She further said that imposing the morality of the court on religion would create independence in the freedom to practice one’s religion. She said that it was an irrelevant issue whether the practice is rational. Justice Malhotra in her judgment stated that ideas of rationality were invoked in matters of the religion of the court, dismissing the appeals challenging the centuries-old ban in the temple.
According to me, women should be allowed to enter the temple as it is their constitutional right. And not allowing them to enter will violate articles 14,25 and 17.
The bench also stated that women’s right to pray was not dependent on any law but it is a constitutional right.
The majority ruled that Sabrimala’s exclusion of women violated the fundamental rights of women between the ages of 10 to 50 years.
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