“Once you open a temple, everyone can go,” said the Supreme Court on Wednesday while hearing the matter of an arbitrary, temple-enforced ban on women between 10 and 50 years from entering the Sabarimala in Kerala.
The court also said a woman’s right to pray was constitutional and did not depend on law.
A five-judge bench of the Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Rohinton Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra were hearing petitions filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association and others challenging the ban in vogue for several years.
Counsel Ravi Prakash Gupta submitted that women devotees between the age group of 10 to 50 were being denied entry into the temple and them touching the feet of Lord Ayyappa had been considered as a desecration of the Hindu deity. ‘Menstruation’ was the reason cited by the temple trust for such treatment of women.
Justice D Y Chandrachud said: “One’s right to pray being a woman, is equal to that of a man and it is not dependent on a law to enable one to do that.” He asked: “Every woman is also the creation of God and why should there be discrimination against them in employment or worship?”
Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra asked temple authorities: “On what basis do you deny (women) entry? It is against the Constitutional mandate. Once you open it for public, anybody can go.”
Justice Nariman questioned the age notification. He said it was arbitrary as it “leaves out the 9-year-old girl and the 53-year-old woman who are menstruating”.
The Kerala government’s stand in the matter is clear — women should be allowed to pray in Sabarimala temple. Minister K Surendran said: “We’ve filed an affidavit in the top court explaining our stand. We’re bound to obey its verdict.”