Our Correspondent /NEW DELHI
The Supreme Court today referred to its constitution bench the matter pertaining to a ban on the entry of women at Kerala’s historic Sabarimala temple.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief justice Dipak Misra framed several questions to be dealt with by the constitution bench, including whether the temple can restrict women’s entry.
The constitution bench will also deal with the questions whether this practice amounted to discrimination against the women and violative of their rights under the Constitution.
The management of the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Pathanamthitta district, had earlier told the apex court that the ban on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years was because they cannot maintain “purity” on account of menstruation.
The court is hearing a plea challenging the practice of banning entry of such women in the temple.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Ashok Bhushan in its judgment framed five questions to be addressed by the Constitution Bench.
The questions framed by the top court includes whether the exclusion of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years based on a biological factors amounts to “discrimination” and violates the very core of Articles 14, 15 and 17 and not protected by ‘morality’ as used in Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution?
Asking whether the practice of excluding such women constitutes an “essential religious practice” under Article 25, the court in another question said, “whether a religious institution can assert a claim in that regard under the umbrella of right to manage its own affairs in the matters of religion?”
In another poser, the court has asked whether “Ayyappa Temple has a denominational character” and if it was permissible for religious denomination managed by a statutory board and is funded by the Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments to indulge in practices “violating the constitutional principles/morality embedded in Articles 14, 15(3), 39(a) and 51-A(e)” of the constitution.
In yet another question to be addressed by the constitution bench, the court has asked whether Rule 3 of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules permits ‘religious denomination’ to ban entry of women between the age of 10 to 50 years.
It further asked if Rule 3 of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules permitted the ban on the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years in Sabrimala temple then would it not be foul of Articles 14 and 15(3).
Article 15(3) of the constitution says that noting in the provision prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth shall prevent the State “from making any special provision for women and children”
The constitution bench will also examine whether Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965 is ultra vires the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965.
The asked the constitution bench to determine that if Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965 is not ultra vires the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, then it would be violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution.