A 9-member Constitution bench will start will begin hearing the reference made in the Sabarimala Review case from tomorrow. None of three dissenting judges in the Sabarimala case are there on the bench.
The bench led by the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde comprises Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant.
The two major questions of law that the top court is likely to address in the reference are:
i) Whether the “essential religious practices” of a religious denomination or even a section thereof are afforded constitutional protection under Article 26.
ii) What would be the permissible extent of judicial recognition to PILs in matters calling into question religious practices of a denomination or a section thereof at the instance of persons who do not belong to such religious denomination?
The bench while Sabarimala Review case, the majority had decided to refer the larger question of women’s rights to a larger bench.
The decision in the review petitions filed against the 2018 Sabarimala judgment was kept pending by the Supreme Court, after making a reference to the larger bench to decide the larger question of law-What constitutes essential practices and to what extent the court can intervene.
The new bench is also expected to set the guidelines and parameters for a judicial review in such Public Interest Litigation challenging norms and customs believed to be “essential practice of religion”.
If a ruling on the entry of women into Sabarimala temple is upheld, it would allow for other similar cases with respect to the entry of Muslim women in mosques and entry of Parsi women after marrying a non-Parsi in their temples to be reviewed.