SC refers Sabarimala temple's ban on women to Constitution Bench

The court is hearing a PIL filed in 2006 by non-profit body Indian Young Lawyers’ Association seeking entry for all women and girls to the Sabarimala shrine

The Supreme Court will on Friday pronounce verdict on whether to refer to a Constitution Bench a bunch of petitions challenging the age-old practice in Kerala's famed Sabarimala temple to restrict entry of women of a certain age.

Now with the SC referring the case to the Constitutional Bench, the verdict on the case might get further delayed.

The bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan framed several questions raised by the public interest litigation and held that these should be decided by a constitutional bench.

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The questions include whether the existing practice of exclusion of women between 10-50 years age by the temple was permissible and whether biological factors were ground enough for excluding women from entering the temple. The entry of women, aged from 10 to 50, into the temple had been a topic of debates after the temple authorities had barred the women from entering the temple's premises.

Earlier in 2016, citing the Constitution, the Supreme Court had questioned the ban, saying that this can not be done under Constitution. Venogopal told the court that it was a question of religious diversity and mentioned the name of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Kerala where men are not allowed. "Unless you have a constitutional right, you can not prohibit entry", the court had said.

Questioning the age-old custom, the Supreme Court in July had said, "A temple is a public religious place and can not refuse entry to a woman".

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"The temple can not prohibit entry (women), except on the basis of religion".

Meanwhile, women's rights activists are hoping for a positive judgment today.

Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal appearing for the Travancore Davaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala temple, had requested the bench to the matter to a constitution bench. "I am sure the judgement will also be very positive and landmark".

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The Supreme Court has, in the past, termed illegal traditional and religious practices that violate the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution.

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