The Supreme Court has refused to hear early petitions that challenged the September 28 of a five member bench that permitted entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala Temple.
The court said that the temple is opening only for 24 hours between November 5 and 6. It had opened for the annual pilgrimage season on October 17 for the first time since the SC order and there were unprecedented scenes near the temple and at all entry points where pro and anti women’s entry groups clashed with each other. Scores of women in the menstrual age who were hitherto denied entry and who had attempted to climb up the hill to the shrine were forcible sent back by ayyappa bhakts.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India is to hear the review petitions in on November 13. . The five SC judges will hear in an “open court” pleas to recall the September verdict of another five-judge constitution bench that allowed women into the temple, an issue that has polarised both devotees and politicians.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, who was heading a bench said the batch of 19 petitions would be taken up on November 13 after the lawyers sought an early hearing.The decision to hold an open-court hearing is significant: review pleas are generally held in judges’ chambers where lawyers, litigants and the media have no access.
An open-court hearing would allow lawyers the scope for extensive arguments.
A five-judge constitution bench had on September 28 quashed by a 4:1 verdict the centuries-old ban on women between 10 and 50 entering the Kerala shrine. The National Ayyappa Devotee Association and several other outfits and individuals have challenged the ruling, though the Kerala government has issued instructions to enforce the order.The petitioners who have sought a review have contended that the old practice was neither derogatory to women, nor linked to physiological occurrences but to the character of Ayyappa, who is considered a celibate deity.
Justice Gogoi is most likely to head the November 13 bench as then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who headed the original bench, has retired. It is up to the CJI to decide whether to head the bench or nominate someone else.The other four judges — Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and the dissenting judge, Justice Indu Malhotra — will have to be necessarily accommodated on the bench.