Sabarimala verdict- Where it failed

After recuperating from a massive flood it seems that Kerala has to wait sometime more for getting back to its normal state as the final verdict of Hon’ble Supreme Court has created more unrest than peace in the state. The judgment is very crucial in understanding the question that whether the top institutions and the people holding them really knows ground reality of India. However with this judgment the answer is more inclined towards a No sign.

The major holding of SC in its verdict dated on 28th of September[1] was that the prohibition on entry of women in temple is a violation of constitutional rights. Hon’ble justice D.Y Chandrachud in his judgement said that the practice of banning women of 10-50 years age group is a form of untouchability. The thoughts of Justice Chandrachud are reasonable in nature but he has missed an important aspect of this tradition that all women devotees are not barred but only those who are in their menstrual period. Untouchability should be interpreted by its meaning towards suppressed classes or Hrijan and other historical developments as stated by Hon’ble justice Indu Malhotra not by prohibition on women of a specific age group.

Any judgment starts with a petition which in this case is filed by a group of lawyers named Young Indian’s lawyer association based in Delhi. This fact is contradictory with the principals laid down by the SC in case of Hans Muller of Nurenburg v. Superintendent, Presidency Jail, Calcutta[2] where the court has ruled that a person can approach court to impugn a particular law only if his/her rights have been violated by that.

Another interesting point in this case is that the court has treated women as a class but it missed an important point that the prohibition is on a group of women not on the whole class. The Court previously held in the case of Hari Sastri v. Shri Badrinath Temple Committee[3] that “This right of entry into a public temple is, however, not an unregulated or unrestricted right”. The majority view of SC held that banning the entry of women doesn’t constitute an essential religious practice but it is in misconception about the tradition. The male member of family take the vow of vratam and every other member participate in it. One who take the vow visit the holy shrine after a period of 41 days which includes inner purification of body and abstinence of sex and other things. Every citizen of India has to bear in mind that while discussing the concept of religion and religious denominations especially of Hinduism which is very diverse, different sects, sub-sects can’t be treated alike.

The ban is because of celibate nature of presiding deity of temple who is Naishtik Brahmchai (One who follows tough celibacy throughout the life) and women are not allowed because of causing deviance to those devotees who has followed the Vratam. However the women may continue to be the devotee of Lord Ayappa. Here it is important to look over the Bombay High Court’s Judgment of Kalidas Jivram v. Gor Prajaram[4]  “Good conduct or orderly behaviour is always an obligatory condition of admission into a temple”. The word orderly behaviour should be seen as honouring the rituals which are necessary for worshipping lord Ayappa. Hence it is sufficient to understand that the ban is not imposed on the basis of sex, if it would have been on this basis then all women would have been barred from entering the temple but it is not so.

The main task of Courts is to give justice according to the Constitution of India which itself draws its power from people of India. With such judgments it looks like that SC has failed to catch the spirit of common faith adopted by masses and represents only an “elite lobby” situated in New Delhi.

The SC should have avoided itself from delivering the verdict for those who are not even going to worship at Sabarimala but it has certainly fueled the peaceful devotees of lord Ayappa. The true devotees of deity never filed any petition regarding this issue despite the fact that Kerala is most literate state in India. By doing this it has contradicted itself with its principals which were laid down in the case of State of Gujrat vs Mirzapur moti kureshi kassab jamat and Ors.[5] “When the fundamental rights clashes with larger interest of society it must yield to the latter.” Now the whole India is seeing the aftermath of one such decision which isn’t only futile for actual beneficiary but disturbing also.

[1] Indian Young lawyers association&Ors. V. State of Kerala 2018 SCC Online SC 1690

[2] Air 1955 SC 367

[3] 1952 SCR 849

[4] I.L.R 15 Bom. 309

[5] (2005) 8 SCC 534

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