The Supreme Court today paved the way for the entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala. The five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict, said banning the entry of women into the shrine is gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women. It said religion is a way of life basically to link life with divinity.
Justice Indu Malhotra was the only dissenting member on the bench. The judgment was delivered by CJI Dipak Misra on behalf of Justice Khanwilkar and himself.
Stating that “law and society are tasked with the task to act as levelers”, CJI Misra said “dualistic approach against women degrades the status of women”.
“Women are not lesser or inferior to man,” CJI Misra said, adding that the patriarchy of religion cannot be allowed to trump over faith. “Biological or physiological reasons cannot be accepted in freedom for faith,” the Chief Justice said.
Concurring with the CJI’s judgment, Justice Nariman stuck down Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which prohibited the entry of women of the aforementioned ages inside the temple.
Justice Chandrachud said religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women and it is also against human dignity. He said the prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries. Devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not form separate religious denominations, Justice Chandrachud said and added that any custom or religious practice if violates the dignity of women by denying them entry due to her physiology is unconstitutional.
He said the popular notion about morality can be offensive to the dignity of others and exclusion of women because she menstruates is utterly unconstitutional.Justice Chandrachud held that exclusion of women is violative of the right to liberty, dignity and equality.