Opening the gates
Mains Paper: 2 | Polity
Prelims level: Sabarimala temple issue
Mains level: The verdict allowing women devotees to enter Sabarimala is a powerful message for gender equality, constitutional morality.
- The Supreme Court, in a 4:1 judgment, has ruled that women of all ages should be allowed the visit the Sabarimala shrine and stuck down the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules 1965.
- In which prohibited entry of women aged between 10 and 50 in Sabarimala, as unconstitutional.
- The three concurring opinions that form the majority have demolished the principal defences of the practices.
- The Sabarimala devotees have constitutionally protected denominational rights.
- They are entitled to prevent the entry of women to preserve the strict celibate nature of the deity.
- And also that they are allowing women would interfere with an essential religious practice.
- The majority held that devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination and that the prohibition on women is not an essential part of Hindu religion.
- In a dissenting opinion, Justice Indu Malhotra chose not to review the religious practice on the touchstone of gender equality or individual freedom.
- Beyond the legality of the practice, which could have been addressed solely as an issue of discrimination or a tussle between two aspects of religious freedom.
- The court has also sought to grapple with the stigmatisation of women devotees based on a medieval view of menstruation as symbolising impurity and pollution.
- Justice Malhotra, who had recently ruled against Section 377 and the adultery law.
- Accordingly, “constitutional morality in a secular polity would imply the harmonisation of the fundamental rights, which include the right of every individual, religious denomination, or sect, to practise their faith and belief in accordance with the tenets of their religion, irrespective of whether the practise is rational or logical”.
- At a time when the Supreme Court, by its own admission, is underlining the very importance of constitutional morality.
- Justice Malhotra’s words are a cautionary reminder that it may need more than a judicial pronouncement to enable social reform.
UPSC Prelims Questions:
Q.1) Mahamaham is a major festival celebrated every 12 years in the South Indian town of
a) Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh
b) Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu
c) Sabarimala, Kerala
d) Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh
UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) How the Sabarimala Verdict is important for Indian political ststem?