The Supreme Court will decide Tuesday when to list for hearing petitions seeking review of its September 28 verdict that allowed women of all age to enter the Sabarimala temple.
A bench of Chief Justices of India Ranjan Gogoi and S K Kaul said this Monday when two fresh writ petitions, challenging the findings in the Sabarimala verdict, came up before it. These petitions were filed by the National Ayyappa Devotees Association (NADA), a voluntary outfit which was not a party to the original case, and by a devotee Jaya Rajkumar.
As soon as the counsel appearing for the NADA told the bench that it related to Sabarimala, CJI Gogoi went into a discussion with Justice Kaul. After some time, the bench asked the counsel to hand over the registration number of his petition to the court master.
Pointing out that he too had filed a petition, Jaya Rajkumar’s counsel requested the court to tag the two pleas with the review petitions already pending.
The CJI replied that the court was aware that 19 review petitions were pending and that the counsel need not tell it what to do. He said the court will take a decision Tuesday on when to list the review petitions and the fresh pleas.
Meanwhile, the Devaswom Board president A Padmakumar said the board wanted the tense situation resolved before the beginning of the festival season. A final decision on legal action, including submitting a report on the ground situation, would be decided Tuesday.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran admitted the dilemma of the Kerala government. “We are between the devil and the deep sea. On one side, there is the responsibility to implement the Supreme Court order. On the other side, there are the protests of the faithful and Sangh Parivar organisations. The BJP has been fomenting trouble by sending men in the attire of pilgrims to the temple.”
While the CPM-led ruling LDF is going to launch a campaign at the district level from Tuesday “to expose the BJP stand on the issue’’, the BJP will decide its next course of action after the Supreme Court decides on listing the hearing of review petitions.
On September 28, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in a 4-1 verdict, threw open the doors of the Sabarimala temple to women of all age, ending the entry ban on women of menstruating age. It said the centuries-old custom at the shrine was not an essential religious practice and “the attribute of devotion to divinity cannot be subjected to the rigidity and stereotypes of gender”.
Four of the five judges on the bench — then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud — ruled against the restriction on women while Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting opinion, saying “the religious practice of restricting the entry of women between the ages of 10 to 50 years is in pursuance of an ‘essential religious practice’… notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion by courts”.