The Supreme Court on Monday indicated that the fate of three fresh writ petitions challenging the September 28 majority judgment of the major court permitting women of all ages entry into the famed Sabarimala temple will depend on how a five-judge Bench of the court will decide a batch of 49 review petitions later in the day.
“Writ petitions to be heard after orders in the review petitions are passed in the course of the day,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi deflated the frantic made-up to the hearing with a one-line order passed even before senior advocate C.A. Sundaram, for the lead petitioner, could even put in a word.
“Writ petitions will be heard after orders in review petitions are passed. If review petitions are withdrawn, we will hear the writ petitions. If review petitions are allowed, we will tag the writ petitions,” Chief Justice Gogoi explained.
The Review Bench comprises Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Rohinton F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra. Justice Malhotra had given the only dissenting opinion against the entry of women aged between 10 and 50.
The 49 different review petitions challenging the September 28 judgment have been filed by several organizations, to the Tantri of the temple to several individuals. The Bench would be deciding the petitions in chambers at 3 p.m. and not in the open court.
The three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi was hearing three different writ petitions, also challenging the Sabarimala judgment. Violence and protests had followed the majority judgment by a Constitution Bench. The court had earlier declined to stay the judgment.
Multiple review and writ petitions were filed by individuals and Ayyappa organizations, comprising women devotees’ bodies, urging the court to reconsider the verdict.
The petitions have argued that ‘reform’ does not mean rendering a religious practice out of existence on the basis of a PIL filed by “third parties” who do not believe in the Sabarimala deity. A Constitution Bench, in a majority of 4:1, had upheld the 12-year-old PIL filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association challenging the prohibition on women aged between 10 and 50 from undertaking the pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple.
The Bench had found that a restriction on women completely based on her menstrual status was a smear on her individual dignity. It was like “treating women as the children of a lesser God is to blink at the Constitution”. It was a “form of untouchability” abolished decades ago. The ban on women was derogatory to equal citizenship. The right to practice religion should yield to the right of the dignity of women aged between 10 and 50.