The Kerala High Court on Wednesday ruled that Sabarimala pilgrims should not be prevented from moving in groups and chanting Ayyappa keerthanam (devotional songs) on the pretext of maintaining prohibitory orders at the shrine.
The division bench issued the interim order on a bunch of petitions moved by various organisations, which had challenged imposition of Section 144 of CrPC at Sabarimala.
The prohibitory orders have been in place at Sabarimala and nearby base stations since November 15 to prevent violent protests in a bid to stop women of menstruating age from going to the temple. In September, the Supreme Court had ordered that all women should be allowed to enter the hill shrine.
In its order on Wednesday, the High Court bench of Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar observed that Sabarimala is a place of special pilgrimage where devotees come in groups under the leadership of a guru swami — a senior pilgrim who has visited the shrine on several successive years — and chant Ayyappa keerthanam.
The court said that imposition of Section 144 was meant for smooth movement of pilgrims, and since going to the temple in groups and chanting keerthanam are part of the pilgrimage, the police cannot prevent devotees from doing that. It is up to the police to take action if there are protests, the court held.
The court also asked Advocate General C P Sudakara Prasad why its earlier oral direction on lifting restrictions at Sabarimala were not complied with. The court took serious note of reports that several pilgrims from other states have gone back from the base station on account of the restrictions.
In a statement, Nair Service Society (NSS), a prominent organisation of upper caste Hindu Nair community, demanded withdrawal of the prohibitory orders at the temple. NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair said a situation should be created at the temple where devotees can offer darshan by sticking to traditions.
Meanwhile, a court in Pathanamthitta granted bail to BJP’s Kerala unit general secretary K Surendran and 71 others who were arrested on charges of violating prohibitory orders at Nilakkal, the Sabarimala base station. The court also directed Surendran and the others not to enter Ranni taluk, where the Sabarimala temple is situated, for the next two months.
The court rejected the plea of the accused to permit them to visit the hill shrine during the two-month “mandala makaravillaku” pilgrim season, PTI reported.
Since a non-bailable warrant is pending against Surendran before the Kannur magistrate court, the BJP leader will have to seek bail in that case to come out of jail.