The Supreme Court will on Tuesday decide on hearing of a batch of petitions seeking recall of a Constitution Bench verdict permitting women in the age group of 10 to 50 years entry into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Krishan Kaul said the bench-led by former Chief Justice Dipak Misra that pronounced the landmark verdict on September 28 has to be reconstituted.
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A review petition is normally considered by the judges of the same bench that had delivered the verdict. A call on hearing the plea would be taken up, the Chief Justice said after the National Association of Aayappa Devotees sought an early hearing of their review pleas.
There are 19 petitions before the top court seeking the recall of the verdict that had junked the centuries old practice prohibiting the entry women who are in the of menstruating age.
Contending that religious practices cannot be “tested on the basis of rationality”, the petitioners have sought a recall of the verdict raising points of procedural error in the judgment. The five-judge Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice Misra had junked the age old tradition of the Lord Ayyappa temple by a majority verdict of 4:1.
It said that the ban on women in menstruating age group, whose presence at the Sabarimala temple was considered to be “impure”, violated their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantee of equality.
The review plea by the Nair Service Society, one of the petitioners, said “without holding that the questions raised related to matters of religion which are not within judicially manageable standards, the majority decision in substance effectively has the effect of holding that the character of the deity can be altered based on individual faith and belief, in violation of the tenets of a particular religion and or religious sect”.
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The petitioners have also argued that besides “patent legal errors” in the verdict, the assumption that the temple practice is based on notions of menstrual impurity is “factually erroneous”.
Pointing to massive protests against the verdict by women worshippers, the petitioners have contended that “the subsequent events that transpired after the judgment clearly demonstrate that overwhelmingly large section of women worshippers are supporting the custom of prohibiting entry of women…”