Sabarimala temple: Kerala government defends ban on women’s entry

Ahead of the Assembly polls, the Congress-led UDF government also withdrew the “erroneous” stand of its predecessor, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government,

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: February 6, 2016 10:20 am
Sabarimala: Ayyappa devotees throng at Sannidanam in Sabarimala on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI1_6_2016_000222A) Sabarimala: Ayyappa devotees throng at Sannidanam in Sabarimala on Wednesday. PTI Photo

Defending the ban on entry of women in Sabarimala temple, the Kerala government Friday told the Supreme Court that beliefs and customs of devotees cannot be changed through a judicial process and that “the opinion of the priests is final” in matters of religion.

It claimed that the restriction on entry of women in the menstrual age group cannot be tested on the ground of fundamental right to equality since it involves essential and integral part of practicing religion, which includes the “right to exclude persons”.

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Ahead of the Assembly polls, the Congress-led UDF government also withdrew the “erroneous” stand of its predecessor, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, which had stated in an affidavit in November 2007 said “it is not fair to deny a section of women from entering Sabarimala temple”. The LDF government had favoured appointment of a commission of scholars to facilitate the change.

However, in the fresh affidavit, the present government has contended that the previous stand favouring a change had no legal basis and that it wanted to rectify the “mistakes” by withdrawing the stand taken in 2007. It said that rituals, ceremonies and modes of worship are exclusive matters of religion protected under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution and they entitle people and communities to manage their own affairs.

“In the context of Sabarimala, the administration vests with the Travancore Devaswom Board under the provisions of the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950. Under the Act, there is a statutory duty cast on the Board to arrange worship in temples in accordance with the usage. Therefore, in matters of religion, it is the opinion of the priests that is final,” it said.

The government stated that “the right to exclude persons who are not allowed to participate in worship according to the tenets of the religious institution in question is a matter of religion” and such essential or integral parts of religion are “immune” from challenge under Article 14 (right to equality).

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  1. A
    Feb 6, 2016 at 12:40 pm
    Why this unwanted interference in Hindu religious customs and practices ? Will you dare ask why Xian and Muslims have OWN set of rules and regulations for their places of worship ? TOO much fuss being made - Pity' Let the Heads of Religious groups and own society handle it; DO not poke yr nose into this, I plead before Non Hindu advocates and Others !
  2. D
    Feb 6, 2016 at 3:34 pm
    If Govts wants rituals and traditions to be at the higher pedestal than the law of the land then it is matter to worry. You can see that all restaurants need to be open for people from all religion, caste and color even though they are commercial enterprises. If consution allows every citizen right to pray and practice his / her religion then they must have right to enter and pray any god or place.
  3. R
    Feb 6, 2016 at 6:06 am
    The very concept of this temple is based on these rituals. The SC and Govt better not meddle with the functioning.
  4. G
    Feb 6, 2016 at 7:31 am
    Women were allowed before 1992. Only after 1992 Sabarimala Trust brought this rule. Kerala Govt is coward. Supreme Court should interfere and fix this discremination
  5. K
    Feb 6, 2016 at 7:37 am
    Why every controversy arising now only, about Hindu temples and rituals as all these years we did not here anything like this.?suddenly these are matters of government poking. Are we in India or being ruled by foreign country ?
  6. M
    Feb 6, 2016 at 5:55 am
    Rituals are part of worship which makes temple important. Sabarimala temple rituals are more of penance without women hence it should continue in the same form
  7. M
    Mallikarjuna Sharma
    Feb 6, 2016 at 3:36 pm
    Are pilgrims to the more difficult to travel temples like Badrinath and Amarnath, etc. discriminated on the basis of gender? If not, why Ayyappa temples should be an exception? The TDB should introspect, review its decisions and allow entry to women and liberalize the rituals and practices.
  8. M
    Mahadev Shastry
    Feb 6, 2016 at 10:31 pm
    I my view, I would not encourage female entry to Shabarimalai. Once female are allowed, it will turn out to be a commercial place than a pilgrimage. More over security will be the biggest issue and the families start settling down for generations, then it would be big mess.
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