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As many as 49 petitions challenging the landmark verdict allowing women entry into the Sabarimala shrine have been filed in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is to hear a bunch of petitions challenging its landmark Sabarimala verdict on February 6, say sources.

The five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, has to decide whether the verdict by a bench of similar strength headed by his predecessor, Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which allowed, by a 4:1 majority view, the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years into Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple needs to be reversed.

The September 28 verdict of the Supreme Court, which had quashed the century-old ban on the entry of women of menstruating age into the shrine dedicated to the eternally celibate Lord Ayyappa, has kept Kerala on tenterhooks for the past four months. Violent protests by Lord Ayyappa’s devotees, allegedly backed by the Hindu-right and sections within the BJP and Congress parties, had broken out across the southern state to prevent implementation of the verdict.

Despite the protests, the communist government in Kerala, under chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has remained steadfast in its resolve to follow the top court’s judgment and let women enter the Sabarimala shrine.

The Supreme Court had recently directed the Kerala government to ensure that two women who had been receiving death threats by Hindu radicals ever since their visit to the shrine were provided round the clock security. The court had also said that any other woman who visits the shrine and is faced with similar threats should also be provided necessary security by the State.

On January 22, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had said that the constitution bench formed to hear the review petitions will begin its proceedings only after January 31 as Justice Indu Malhotra, who is part of the bench, was on medical leave till January 29.

It may be recalled that Justice Malhotra was the lone woman on the five-judge constitution bench which had delivered the verdict in the Sabarimala case on September 28. Notably, Justice Malhotra was also the only judge to dissent with the majority view that lifted the ban on women from entering the hilltop shrine. Those protesting against the Supreme Court’s verdict have hailed Justice Malhotra for her stance, with many even carrying her photographs during street protests.

Besides Chief Justice Gogoi and Justice Malhotra, other judges on the constitution bench formed to hear the review petitions include Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud. Chief Justice Gogoi is also the only judge who was not part of the constitution bench that had delivered the original Sabarimala verdict.

—India Legal Bureau

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