The bench comprising Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, have framed seven questions that will be taken up by the court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, opened the argument by referring to various apex court judgments on fundamental rights to practise and propagate religion under the Constitution and said government and the court have authority to regulate secular part of the religion. Mehta added that in matters concerning “public order, morality and health,” the state can form the laws.
The nine-judge Bench, which a week ago clarified it won’t be deciding the review petition but only lay down the general law to be followed, will examine the “scope and ambit of right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution” and the “inter-play between the rights of persons under Article 25… and rights of religious denomination under Article 26”.
The seven questions framed by the bench include those on scope and ambit of religious freedom and interplay between religious freedom and freedom of beliefs of religious denominations. The bench said it’s nine-judge bench will deal with the right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution and its interplay with the right of various religious denominations.
The Sabarimala reference to the nine-judge Bench followed the September 19, 2019 decision of a five-judge Bench, headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, to keep review petitions, challenging its September 28, 2018 order that lifted age restrictions on the entry of women to the hill shrine in Kerala, pending till a larger bench took a call on certain questions arising from it.
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