The Supreme Court will hear on November 13 petitions seeking a review of its verdict that removed the age restriction on the entry of women to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said Tuesday.
“The Sabarimala cases will be taken up on November 13 at 3 pm. The order has been passed,” the CJI said. He was responding to a mention from Mathews J Nedumpara, the lawyer representing the National Ayyappa Devotees Association, who sought an urgent hearing on a plea against the verdict before a bench that also comprised Justice S K Kaul.
Review petitions are usually considered “in chamber” by judges through a process called “hearing by circulation”. But depending on the court’s discretion, some are heard in open court where, unlike a chamber hearing, the parties concerned can be represented by their lawyers.
The Supreme Court verdict of September 28 had triggered huge protests in Kerala where devotees opposed the move to allow women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the temple, citing a tradition followed for centuries that bars women of menstruating age from the shrine.
Last week, protesters prevented at least 10 women in that age group from entering the temple, which opened for five days for the first time since the verdict, despite the state government deploying police to provide security.
On Monday, the CJI said there were 19 review petitions in total against the verdict and that he would decide Tuesday on when to hear them.
Last month, acting on a petition by a group of women’s rights activists, a five-judge bench comprising the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra had by a 4-1 majority struck down the age bar on women. Justice Malhotra dissented with the majority.
Review petitions have been filed by parties and impleaders to the original case, including the Nair Service Society, a community outfit; a representative of the Pandalam palace where Lord Ayyappa is believed to have been brought up; the chief priest of the temple; and, People for Dharma, an association of women devotees.
The petition by the palace said the age restriction on women is “based on and draw from the celibate nature… of the deity… and not on perceived notions of menstrual impurity as claimed by the Writ Petitioner”.
The People for Dharma plea said the verdict had the effect of “Abrahamising the core of Hindu faith”. They argued that it was part of the country’s diversity as such a restriction existed only in this Ayyappa shrine and not in other shrines dedicated to the deity.
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