India's top court lifts Hindu temple ban on women of menstruating age

India's top court lifts Hindu temple ban on women of menstruating age

India's top court lifts Hindu temple ban on women of menstruating age

A five-judge Supreme Court bench led by CJI Dipak Misra made this verdict ending an age-old ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years. She said, "Notions of rationality can not be invoked in matters of religion.What constitutes essential religious practice is for the religious community to decide, not for the court". While Justices Chandrachud and Nariman wrote a concurring judgment.

Sabarimala chief priest Kantaru Rajeevarusaid theverdict was disappointing, but the temple board will follow it. Activist Rahul Easwar, who had supported the ban on women's entry in the past, said the devotees of Ayyappa will file a review petition. The Court said that banning entry of women in the shrine was gender discrimination and Patriarchal notion can not be allowed to trump equality in devotion.

Justice Malhotra also said that Lord Ayyappa devotees formed a separate religious denomination and were worthy of protection.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra, while reading the judgement said that Law and Society are tasked with the responsibility of acting as equalizers and devotion can not be subjected to discrimination.

'Religion is basically way of life however certain practices create incongruities.

Three years ago, the Sabarimala temple chief said he would allow women to enter the shrine only after a scanner was invented to detect if they were "pure"- meaning they weren't menstruating.

Ayyappa devotees do not form a denomination, but they are only a part of Hindu worship.

Hindu pilgrims queue outside the Sabarimala Temple to offer prayers to the Hindu deity "Ayappa", about 70 kms (43 miles) west of the town Pathanamthtta in the southern Indian state of Kerala, on January 15, 2003.

Earlier a ban was imposed on women between the ages of 10 and 50 to not enter the Sabarimala temple premises.

Referring to the antiquity of practice, the court was told that the temple could invoke Article 25 (1) to protect the practice, and since its management was entrusted to a board by a statute, it was duty-bound to protect a practice based on religious belief.

However, some women, on the other hand, have expressed their dissatisfaction over the verdict.

The judgment examined the validity of Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which held that entry of women in temples is barred at such time during which they are not allowed by custom and usage to enter a place of public worship. She said that the court must not interfere with religious beliefs and that if a person has a belief in a deity, it must be respected.

"The judgement breaks the taboo and lift the shame [that menstruating women face]" she said.

The present judgment will not be limited to Sabarimala alone and it will have wide ramifications. Constitutional morality in a pluralistic society gave freedom to practice even irrational or illogical customs and usages.

What is essential practise in a religion is for the religion to decide. India is a diverse country. Personal views of judges do not matter.

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