Sabarimala Verdict: Will the SC’s Decision Effect Profound Changes?

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The Sabarimala verdict is out. However, contrary to the expectations of many, the five-judge bench didn’t arrive at a conclusion. The petitions—numbering to more than 60—filed against the 2018 order, which lifted the age-old ban on women, between 10 to 50 years of age, entering the temple have been referred to a larger seven-judge bench. It will be further studied and analyzed. Only then can the apex court arrive at a conclusion.

What do the priests have to say?

Well, according to a well-known newspaper, those who favor the restriction of women argue that Lord Ayyappa is a celibate and the Supreme Court ought to have taken that into consideration beforehand.

During the hearing, the priests denied having discriminated devotees on the basis of any caste, gender, or religion. The shrine’s lawyer has also mentioned, “The fundamental right to worship also includes the character of the deity and every devotee cannot question this character which also formed part of the essential religious practice there.”

What has the Court said?

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi along with Justices AM Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra passed the majority verdict (3:2 in a five-judge bench) today, while Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud were the voices of dissent. They are of the opinion that issues concerning the entry of women to religious places are not confined to Sabarimala alone.

Their decision implies that restrictions imposed on the basis of gender in all communities and religions need to be rethought and a single conclusion needs to be arrived at. The new seven-judge bench is supposed to re-examine various religious issues such as the entry of women into mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

What can we expect?

A former renowned right-wing political figure from the state, Kummanam Rajasekharan, has said, “In the shadow of this verdict, if the government tries to get young women to enter the temple and create problems, the repercussions will be severe.

Well, having read the previous comment, the people at large might be led to deduce that adhering to constitutional decrees might “create problems”—the Supreme Court itself had termed the practice of preventing women from entering as “illegal and unconstitutional” last year.

Kerala’s left-led government had urged the court to trash the review petitions. However, the court has decided to lend an ear to all kinds of voices. Hopefully, the just and not the loudest will prevail. We can at least hope, if not expect, that much.

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A literary enthusiast and bibliophile by nature, he is an ardent lover of themes related to politics, modernism and postmodernism. He has a penchant for associating himself with issues that concern the society at large. He nurses dreams of being a flaneur one day and walk in the shoes of Shakti Chattopadhyay, Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire!

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