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  • The Supreme Court paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Ayappa temple at Shabrimala in Kerala.
  • The Five Judge constitutional bench in its 4:1 Verdict, said that banning the entry of women in the shrine is gender discrimination and the Practice violates rights of Hindu Women.
  • The CJI said religion is a way of life basically to link life with divinity.
  • The Dissenting Judgement is that matters or issues which have deep religious connotation should not be tinkered with to maintain secular atmosphere in the country.
  • The Dissenting Judge was of the view that it is not for the courts to determine which religious practices are to be struct down except the issue of social evil like ‘Sati’.

Background:

  • The Case of entry was first filed and a judgement banning the entry of women was first delivered by the division bench of Kerala high court.
  • It was filed on the context, that the institution was behaving against the customs by allowing some of the VVIP, some of them are women to enter the Shrine.
  • After 16 Years, the Indian Young lawyer association filed a petition in Supreme court directly challenging ‘Rule(3)’ of the Temple entry rules of 1965 which places a bar on women’s based on customs and traditions.
  • Later, the division bench transferred the case to the constitutional bench citing 5 Questions which required constitutional clarity. They are:
  • An Exclusionary Practice which is based on a biological factor exclusive to female gender amounts to discrimination and violates the core of article 14,15,17 and not protected by Article 25.
  • Whether the practice of exclusion such women (Who have menstrual capability) constitutes an essential religious practice under Article 25 and whether a religious institution can assert a claim in this regard Under the Umbrella ‘Right to manage religion in own affair’.
  • Whether Ayappa temple has a denominational character and if so is it permissible on the part of religious denomination managed by a statutory board and financed under article 290A if the constitution of India and consolidated fund of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in violation of Article 14.
  • Whether Rule 3 of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship rules permit religious denomination to ban entry of women between the age of 10-50 Year’s and if so would it not run a foul or play a foul of article 14 and Article 15 of the constitution by restricting women on the grounds of sex.
  • Whether Rule 3 (b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship rules 1965, Ultra vires the very rule which states all the people would be allowed in Temple, which questions the legality of the particular clause with the law itself.
  • The Constitution bench took the case and delivered the Judgement in 2018.

Argument in Favour of the Judgement:

  • It is the break through to the path of gender equality and hailed by many activists.
  • The Women’s were merely banned on the basis of the biological nature which does not take into account, greater questions like even the menstruation can happen below age group of 10 and above 50.
  • It is considered as a break through in way old traditions of the society.
  • It is the constitutional morality that needs to be adhered and any practices should be tested under the touchstone of equality.
  • The Judgement emphasises on respect to human dignity.
  • It shows the transformative nature of the Indian constitution with time.

Criticism to the Judgement: The History of the Temple

  • ‘SthalaPuranam’ means history of the temple (a particular one) which gives a valuable insight about the evolution of the temple in form of scriptures.
  • The Scriptures in this applies to the temple called ‘ Bharatanathaupagyanam’ which says that Lord Ayappa is going to take ‘Eternal Celibacy”.
  • In this regard, the judgement has clearly omitted the nature of the deity who practice celibacy. Allowing women should have to be restricted.

Age Restriction:

  • The Age restriction from 10 Years to 50 Years was notified by state government which should have been slightly changed to women with reproductive capability.

Nature of Temples in Kerala:

  • As most of the temples in India is vedic in nature the temples in India is Tantric which emphasizes on ‘Sexual Behaviour’ so the deity being a celibate woman should not be allowed.

Living Deity Under Law:

  • Article 25 of the constitution mentions ‘person’s not ‘Citizens’ as the Deity is considered to be living, so it also comes under the definition of person under Hindu and Indian law.

Funding Temple A Legal Obligation

  • Article 27 States that no religion should be promoted by the state. But this particular temple under Article 290 A receives funds from consolidated fund of state.
  • In 1922, Travancore was a princely state which took over the lands of this temple and promised to pay 51 lakh’s as compensation.
  • After government of India integrated the princely state if become the obligation of the government.

Judgement Overlooked Nuances:

  • The Judgement did not differentiate between the deity and temple as a institution and religion.
  • No one can claim under Article 25 that it is the right of individual to worship as he / she pleases. No one can go to Gurudwara and offer Tobacco.
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