The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on Thursday on 65 petitions (review pleas and writs) filed against the apex court’s 2018 verdict on Sabarimala, where the ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 was lifted. If the court decides that the review petitions are acceptable, then a bench may be set up to hear the case again.
The Supreme Court in February 2019 had reserved judgement after hearing around a bunch of pleas, filed by various parties, including Nair Service Society, the priest of the temple and the temple’s board, Travancore Devaswom Board, seeking a review of the court’s September 28 judgement.
On September 28, 2019, the five-judge Constitution bench comprising then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra gave the verdict allowing entry of women of all ages. Justice Indu Malhotra was the lone dissenter in the verdict.
On November 13 last year, the apex court had agreed to hear in open court the pleas seeking review of its verdict but had refused to stay the judgement.
Here’s what the main petitioners sought in the review pleas:
The pleas filed by the petitioners relied heavily on Justice Indu Malhotra’s dissenting judgement in 2018.
The petitioners seeking recall of the verdict argued that besides “patent legal errors” in the verdict, the assumption that the temple practice was based on notions of menstrual impurity was factually erroneous. Quoting the protests that broke out after Supreme Court’s September 2018 verdict, the petitioners said that these “clearly demonstrate that overwhelmingly large section of women worshippers are supporting the custom of prohibiting entry of women”.
The Nair Service Society: Senior advocate K Parasaran, the counsel for the Nair Service Society, had argued before a five-judge bench and urged the court to set aside its earlier verdict. The Nair Service Society had said that the custom banning menstruating women from entering the temple was essential to maintain the sanctity of the temple in following the age-old practice.
Travancore Devaswom Board: While the TDB, which handles management of the Sabarimala temple, had earlier opposed the entry of the women, stating that the SC’s earlier judgement did not take into consideration the ‘essential character’ of the deity. The TDB had also opposed the PIL by the Indian Young Lawyers Association, adding that the celibate character of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala temple was a unique religious feature, and it is protected under the Constitution. However, on the second day of the hearing, the TDB reversed its stand, submitting in the court that discrimination on the grounds of biological attributes was not correct.