INTRODUCTION TO THE CASE
The altercation on the matter of the Sabarimala case had been an alarming topic in recent times and the temple had been in the news due to its old practising customs. The temple of Sabarimala is one of the most prominent and popular temples for Hindus which is situated in Kerala. People from far places come to worship Lord Ayyapan also known as Dharmashastha who is known to be the son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Vishnu.
A practice by the priest of the temple and the authorities had been practised due to the old fashioned and conservative mindset of the people of excluding the entry of menstruating women from the age of ten to fifty years in the premises as it would question the purity of the temple. This practice of not allowing women inside the temple was being practised for a long period.
In 1990, a plea was filed by S Mahendran in the High Court alleging women for visiting the temple and seeking a ban on entry of menstruating women of ten to fifty years of age. The verdict came in 1991 where Justices K. Paripoornan and K. Balanarayana Marar of the Kerala High Court prohibited the entry of women aged ten to fifty years.
In 2006, a group of five young women lawyers challenged this old-restrictive practice by the authorities of the temple through public interest litigation (PIL) in the supreme court of India where they stated that Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965 that states “Women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship” is in violation and against the fundamental rights of the constitution of India
Traditions and customs have been a crucial and indispensable aspect of every religious and cultural sect in our country. Even today different customs are being practised and followed for a long time, some of the customs are given high importance in the society while some are ignored. Even the practice of not allowing menstruating women inside the temple was prevailing for a long period.
JUDICIAL HISTORY OF SABARIMALA CASE
The Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha temple situated in Kerala is an eminent and well-known temple devoted to Lord Ayyappa. In 1990 the temple authorities brought into force a restriction on the entry of menstruating women between the age of ten to fifty years into the temple as a woman during her menstruation is thought to be impure.
The Kerala high court restricted women’s entry into the temple for the reason that it was constitutional and this tradition and custom were being practised for a long period.
THE SABARIMALA CASE JUDGEMENT AND ANALYSIS
India, a country of diversified people and culture, religion and society are crucial aspects. The Sabarimala case is a debate between fundamental rights and Religion. The position and status of a woman have always been less than that of a man due to the mindset of society. Women always had to scuffle to achieve and reach the position of a man. Men of the society always had an upper and a dominant hand as compared to women.
The case of Sabarimala is an example of women struggling and grappling for their rights which prohibited their entry into the temple. The matter of the Sabarimala case was decided by the Five Judge Bench of Supreme Court of India Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Rohinton Nariman’s, Justice Deepak Mishra, Justice Khanwilkar and Justice Indu Malhotra were they their verdicts which had various opinions for the same.
The Statements of the bench on the Sabarimala Case
Justice DY Chandrachud
Justice DY Chandrachud in his judgment asserted that denying a women’s entry in a temple on the fact that she menstruates is entirely unconstitutional. He stated any religious tradition or custom that contravened the dignity of a woman is completely lawful and against the law. He also stated that it would subordinate a woman to restrict her from the right to worship and exclusion of women to enter the temple premises was contradictory to constitutional morality. He further emphasized that biological traits like menstruation have no importance on the rights guaranteed to them. The women’s menstrual status is completely unconstitutional.
Justice Rohinton Nariman
Justice Rohinton Nariman stated that the ban on entry of women in the temple premises rendered their right under Article 25 meaningless. He further expressed that women’s right from the age of ten to fifty years to enter the Sabarimala Temple and exercise their right to freedom is protected under article 25(1), which was enough to conclude that that the ban on entry of women violated Article 25(1)
Justice Deepak Mishra and Justice Khanwilkar
Justice Deepak Mishra and Justice Khanwilkar proclaimed that any rule that erodes and differentiates the dignity of women should be violative of articles 14 and 15. Both men and women have the same rights to worship and the practice of the authorities of the temple is illegal and violative of the Indian constitution. He further stated that there was no constitutional test to pass for the devotees of Ayyappa to declare themselves as separate religious identities.
Justice Indu Malhotra
Justice Indu Malhotra, the only women judge to give a heretical opinion, had set a treacherous precedent stating that the court should not probe and go through the rationality of custom and religious practices. She further expressed that the court does not have the power to intercede to any matters relating to religion, traditions and customs as it is outside the ambit of the court, ruling that rule 3(b) of 1965 rules is not ultra vires. She also dismissed the argument by emphasizing that court must respect a religious authority’s right, their internal affairs whether their practices, customs are logical or not
Religion and customs play a crucial role in shaping the minds of people in society. Even today numerous customs are being followed and practised for a long time. This comes as a landmark judgment especially when the country is divided based on religion. The judgement of the Sabarimala case has set an example for everyone and has emphasised that the menstrual status of a woman cannot make her impure.
The Sabarimala case was not only an issue of constitutional importance or any other issue that violates the law but it was more than that. The ban of entry of women in the Sabarimala Temple was because of the customs, traditions practised and biased behaviour for a long period which gave rise to long time ignorance of the right of women.
The women in society are always discriminated against based on sex and gender and are still contemplated subordinate to men due to the wrong mindset of the people in the society. The supreme court by giving its verdict and by eradicating the ban on entry of women menstruating in the Sabarimala Temple sets an excellent example by ensuring that women’s right is not set aside and ignored because of the customs and traditions practised from a long period instead they are given equal importance that of men. The supreme court has thus proved that the basic elements i.e. equality and morality will always be above anything.
Authored by: Akanksha Arora