Supreme Court of India lifts ban, women of all ages can now enter Sabarimala temple

Supreme Court of India lifts ban, women of all ages can now enter Sabarimala temple

  • The 5-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra ruled that women can now enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, irrespective of their age.
  • The verdict stated that the tradition violated the right of Hindu women to practice their religion.
  • The bench also said, the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 put patriarchy in religion above the right to pray, which is stated in Article 25 of the Indian constitution.
In another landmark verdict this week, the Supreme Court of India ended the centuries-old tradition of women not being able to enter Kerala’s most well-known temple, the Sabarimala temple, if they were between the ages of 10 to 50.

Petitioners had challenged the Kerala High Court’s decision that only the tantri or priest had the power to decide on traditions. The five-judge Constitutional bench that included Chief Justice Dipak Misra, R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, ruled that the tradition enforced patriarchy in religion and could not be allowed to trump women’s right to pray.

Not a unanimous decision

Justice Indu Malhotra was the only judge on the bend to vote against the petition. She stated that rational arguments cannot be applied to matters of religion and that religious practices are more complex than the right to equality.

She added that Article 25 of the Indian constitution already protects the Sabarimala shrine and its deity. While Article 14 stresses the right of all individuals to be equal in the eye of the law, constitutional morality also accounts for everyone being allowed to practise their beliefs. Even if those beliefs are biased towards one gender.

That being said, Justice Nariman expressed that the rule actually violates Article 25 by not extending the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion to women.

The management of the Sabarimala temple, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has already announced that they will be filing to review the petition. The president of TDB, A Padmakumar, stated that he would be enlisting the help of other religious heads to push this forward.

The custodians of the temple, the Pandalam royal family, also expressed their disappointment in the verdict.