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SABARIMALA TEMPLE

This articleis written by Simran Kaur Bilkhu, a Law Student of Balaji Law College, Pune University during her internship with LeDroit India. The author in this article,has analysed critically the judgement of Indian Young Lawyers Associate & Ors. V. The State of Kerela & Ors.

Introduction

In today’s time, most of us believe in equality and work towards equity. Despite these several events women around the world are still subject to unequal treatment in social and cultural activities. Some basic rights are still being snatched, by the patriarchal notion for ages. Part of the idea of “patriarchy” is that this oppression of women is multilayered.
To reduce women’s exposure to inequality and violence and develop logically appropriate interventions, it is necessary to gain an understanding of how society uses culture and tradition to rationalize it.
Young Lawyer Associates vs. the State of Kerala is one such prominent case that threw some light on the issue of women and their rights, which were being neglected and scraped down due to the very natural phenomenon that women aged 10-50 go through menstrual cycles and are barred from entering the temples. The temple practice violated the rights of Hindu women and that banning entry of women to the shrine was gender discrimination, In particular, the temple of Sabarimala which is situated in Kerala, is famously known as a temple of Hindus. This ancient temple is dedicated to the worship of Lord Ayappan, also known as ‘Dharmashastha’ who according to beliefs is a son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Vishnu and which is thus considered to be sacred, which questions the sanity and purity of the temple due to the same reason it was noticed by the Young Lawyer Associate in 2006. A PIL was filed in the same year, which was accepted on 28th September 2018 which was in consideration to the debarring of a woman to enter the temple in her menstrual years was unconstitutional and was violating the fundamental right of a woman, freedom of equality and freedom of religion, Article 14 and Article 25 with the Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Place of Public Worship. 4:1 majority of Supreme Court were in acceptance that these customary rules were unconstitutional.

Judgement

On 28th September 2018, the court delivered its verdict on the Sabarimala Case; held by 4:1 majority that it was unconstitutional for debarring women from entering the temple in their Menstruating years. It was held, that these customs that were taken forward all these years were violating the fundamental rights of freedom of religion i.e. Article 25 (1) of female worshipers; it also stated that Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Place of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 was stroked and was unconstitutional being violative of Articles 14, 15,25 and 51A(e). The judgment was given by a four-judge bench and each with their opinion: Chief Justice Misra, Justice Nariman, Justice Chandrachud, and Justice Malhotra. Justice Malhotra was in disagreement with the verdict of the rest of the Justices.
Chief Justice Misra’s opinion on the same was that women should not be debarred from the freedom of worship and the custom that laid down these rules were biased and patriarchal, further, he said that there should be no limit in the age as were created earlier of 10-50, to which he described as that the Ayappan devotees never constituted such rules and women were not allowed to enter was unfair religious acts. In the court, if judgment held that the State shall reform itself according to the Article 26 (b) and Article 25 (2)(b) more specifications on latter Article 25 (2)(b) to which the State is allowed to make laws that include “classes and sections” as quoted defining “classes and sections” to include gender category of women. He also struck down Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship, and Section 3 and 4 of its Parent Act which were contradictory to each other. The Rule read to exclude women from Hindu Places of Worship whereas, Section 3 and 4 stating specifically to reform Public Hindu Places so that they become open to all sections. Due to this CJI Misra, concluded that the rule not only violates the Constitution but also crosses with the aim of the Parent Act.
Justice Nariman’s Opinion on the Sabarimala Temple was with Justice Misra’s where he stated, the freedom in Article 26 is of the state to reform and direct to Article 25 (2)(b). He puts his focus on Article 25 (b) where women in the age group 10-50 can exercise their freedom in this particular aerator religious act. He struck down Rule 3(b) and declared it unconstitutional.
Justice Chandrachud’s Opinion on this case was waving its aims, on constitutional immorality and the no autonomy, no liberty/subjugation and no dignity. He held that the morality that he was seeking to look at in this case was that of Article 25 and 26 and couldn’t take in the fact of seeing the Constitution’s fundamental rights getting ground down which are guaranteed under these Articles. He also brings in the topic of Article 17 as untouchability is one of the forms to use against the exclusion of women. Justice Chandrachud is on the same page of the opinions of Justice Misra and Nirman.
Justice Malhotra brings in a very vague opinion on this case and comparatively has a dissenting judgment on the same. She was explaining how religious activities should be kept in their own space and not brought into Constitutional Affairs as it is for India and the State should let individuals and sects practice their faiths. She also held that the fundamental rights under Article 14 cannot override Article 25, while also stating that Rule 3(b) is not in conflict with the Parents Act and that the Rule was consistent with Article 26 (b), other than that she also dismissed Article 17 as a custom violation and dissolves the argument of untouchability is based on gender.

Conclusion

The Sabarimala case has helped make great progress in today’s religious practices, of people who have been following such customs and practices that have been dogmatic and have been following hegemonic patriarchy notions. This judgment expedited social integration and breathed life into feminist jurisprudence.
This litigation has been a quest for judicial intervention to restrict dogmatic practices in the alleged pursuit of religion and hegemonic patriarchy notions. Women for so long have been treated biased, not given the basic fundamental rights, this is not today’s story, women have been treated partially due to gender basis and due to male dominance in society.
Traditions, culture and customs have always made India different from other countries and we are proud of that but we cannot make these same customs or cultures as a part of ourselves, throwing us down even if we have our Constitution.
The Constitution of India guarantees certain Fundamental Rights majorly talking here in the sense of Right to Equality and Right to Religion. The Supreme Court in this Verdict has eliminated this Rule 3(b) on women from entering the Sabarimala Temple; and keeping the ascendancy and sovereignty of The Indian Constitution.

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