Apex court transfers Sabarimala issue to larger bench

March 7th, 2008 - 9:37 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday transferred to a larger bench a petition challenging the age-old tradition practiced by Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple where women aged between 10 and 50 are denied entry. A bench of Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice V.S. Sirpurkar referred the matter to a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, saying that the contentions raised in the petition involved important legal and socio-religious issues.

The matter will now come up for hearing before the chief justice, who will decide if the mater needs adjudication by a constitutional bench.

The temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa and located in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district, bars entry of women between the ages 10 and 50 - or those in menstruating age.

The petition had been filed by a group of women lawyers, who sought that the Kerala government be directed to lift the ban on women devotees entering the temple.

The public interest litigation filed by six women lawyers belonging to the Indian Young Lawyers’ Association contended that custom restricting the entry of women aged 10-50 years into the temple violated various fundamental rights, including the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the constitution.

They also challenged the validity of the provisions of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which legalises the ban.

Terming the practice as a “socio-religious malady”, they expressed “surprise” that the practice was being carried out by a temple board that received Rs.800,000 per annum from the state.

Earlier on Jan 15, the bench while indicating its intention to refer the matter to a constitutional bench, had issued notice to the Kerala government, seeking their response to the plea. The bench had said it would transfer the petition to a larger bench after receiving the state’s reply.

In its affidavit, filed to the apex court subsequently on Feb 8, the Kerala government said that it favoured the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple without restriction.

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