Should women in the menstruating age be allowed to visit Sabarimala? That’s the question on which the Supreme Court has been listening to various sides for many years. However, the court has now referred the case to a Constitutional bench of the SC, to decide whether temple entry is a fundamental right.
According to custom at this temple, where the deity is believed to be celibate, girls and women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed inside the temple. This customary ban had been codified in Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965. The Kerala High Court had upheld the Rules and allowed the Devaswom Board to enforce the ban.
The court of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan has made this decision.
In effect, the Constitutional Bench will now have to decide whether the ban on women and girls to enter Sabarimala is violative of fundamental rights - particularly, right to equality and right to religious freedom. It will have to decide whether the restriction on women's entry is an 'essential religious practice'. The bench will also rule on whether Sabarimala devotees form a separate religious denomination, and whether the temple, managed by the Travancore Devoswom Board, can 'indulge' in a ban on women and girls inside the temple, in the name of 'morality.'