The Sabarimala temple restricts women aged between 10 and 50 years from taking the pilgrimage to temple Stating Swami Ayyappa is a ‘Naishtika Brahmachari’ and not to be disturbed.
- In 1991, Kerala High Court Judgement Supports the restriction. It held that the prohibition imposed by the Travancore Devaswom Board was not violative of Articles 15, 25 and 26 of the constitution and also not violative of provisions of the Hindu places of public worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965.
- In 2007, Kerala’s LDF government files an affidavit supporting a PIL filed by women lawyers questioning the ban on the entry of women.
- In 2016, The Indian Young Lawyers Association and five women lawyers approached the Supreme Court for allowing Women of all age to enter the temple.
- In 2017, the Supreme Court referred the case to constitution Bench. In 2018, Supreme Court questions the temple’s authority to deny entry to a particular section of women.
Five judge constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in a 4:1 majority upheld the right of women of all ages to worship in places of their choice. Only justice Indu Malhotra dessents.
View of CJI and three other Judges:
- The rule 3 (B) of Kerala Temple Entry Act which excludes women between 10 and 50 violates freedom of a Hindu religion to worship.
- Right to worship equally available to men and women
View of Indu Malhotra:
- Religious practices cannot be solely tested on the basis of Article 14.
- Rationality should not be seen in matters of religion.
Kerala Government’s Stand:
- The Verdict Kerala Government has welcomed the verdict Supreme Court. The current LDF government favours temple entry.
- In 2007, the LDF government had filed an affidavit for allowing every women to enter into Sabarimala.
- But the previous government had argued that the prohibition was ingrained in the minds of devotees for centuries.
Travanuore Devaswom Board’s Stand:
- Travanuore Devaswom Board argued that Sabarimala does not practice exclusion nor the restrictions and it was physiologically impossible for women to observe the 41-day penance before pilgrimage.
- The temple Management has argued in court that they should be allowed to frame rules for the shrine without state’s interference.
Article 14 vs Article 26:
- Article 14: Equality before law. The state shall not deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of law.
- Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs subject to public order, morality and health.
- The majority in judgement has stated that the right to equality would prevail over right to practice.
Arguments for Temple Entry:
- Sabarimala Temple is a public temple
- Right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion is a constitutional right.
- God of Sabarimala is worshipped in many temples outside where women of all age group can enter.
- The biological factor exclusive to the female amounts to discrimination which violates articles 14, 15 and 17 of the constitution.
- Religious practices must remain relevant to changing social structure & relationship and it needs reform.
Arguments against Temple Entry:
- Lord Ayyappa Idol in Sabarimala is said to be Naishtika Brahmachari.
- Lord Ayyappa is unique & celibate, hence he doesn’t want the presence of women aged between 10-50.
- Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu places of public worship (authorization of entry) 1965, bars women from entering the temple.
- Article 26(b) provides right to every religious denomination to manage own affairs in matters of religion.