Sabarimala Hearing: SC Reserves Judgment on Review Petitions

Vishal Chauhan, 06/02/2019
Sabarimala Hearing: SC Reserves Judgment on Review Petitions

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 6 February, reserved the judgment on a batch of review petition over the entry of women of all age groups in Sabarimala temple. The Travancore Dewaswom Board, which manages the temple, on Wednesday, 6 February, clarified that it supports the SC verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the shrine.

The Board had filed a petition seeking additional time to implement the SC judgment passed in September 2018.

The Supreme Court is hearing more than 50 review petitions against its decision to allow women between 10 and 50 years of age to enter the shrine.

Snapshot


  • The first to present the case was senior advocate K Parasaran, who was appearing for the Nair Service Society
  • He argued that the SC judgment was incorrect because it failed to take into account the nature and character of the deity
  • Two women -- Bindu and Kanakadurga -- who had entered temple earlier, seek direction that they be allowed to enter again when temple next opens on 12 Feb

 

3:22 PM, 06 Feb

Dewaswom Board Will Support and Respect SC Judgement: Dwivedi

Rakesh Dwivedi, counsel of Travancore Dewaswom Board said that the board has taken a conscious decision to support and respect the judgement of SC and implement it. “The board thinks that is a right judgement in right direction and it grants equality to women in the matters of worship”, he said.

2:57 PM, 06 Feb

SC Reserves Judgment

Supreme Court reserves judgment in 65 petitions including 56 review petitions and 4 fresh writ petitions. The arguments are closed on both sides, the parties are at liberty to file written submissions.

2:48 PM, 06 Feb

Jaising Counters Parasaran's Argument

To counter Parasaran's argument that Article 15(2) does not cover religious places, Jaising points out 15(2)(b) ends with the words "dedicated to use of general public". A public temple therefore is covered under Article 15(2)(b), she says.

"If the judgment was against us, we would not have rioted. Women don't go to war", says Jaising.

At this, Justice Nariman jokingly tells, "Razia Sultana's tomb is just 2 minutes away from here". Most of the review petitioners are guilty of contempt of court. Most of them have rioted against the SC judgment, submits Jaising.

2:35 PM, 06 Feb

Indira Jaising Says Purification of Temple Based on Notions of Untouchability

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who is appearing for the two women who entered the temple, opens argument.

Jaising said, “Women who entered the temple had to face intense threats. This is no mere exclusion, but social boycott." The purification ceremony after women entry validates the finding of the court that the practice is based on notions of untouchability submits Jaising.

“Untouchability is within quotes in Article 17, because it was left undefined,” she said.

Jaising argued that menstruating women are regarded as impure and polluted. This attracts the concept of untouchability, she says.

Sabarimala Is A Public Temple And Not A Family Temple. So Article 15(2) Is Applicable.

-Indira Jaising

Article 25 is about freedom of conscience. If my conscience tells me that I need to have a darshan of Lord Ayyappa, I should have the right to enter the temple. Nobody should stop entry, she says.

“Preamble gives me the right to worship. If I am a person in the eye of law, I have the right to worship, invoking preamble and Article 25. Any other interpretation will mean that religion is an island according to the Constitution.”

"Jaising says that gender justice is at stake."

2:12 PM, 06 Feb

TDB Says It Respects Verdict

The bench assembles after lunch recess. Sr Counsel Rakesh Dwivedi starts arguments for Travancore Devaswom Board.

"I am reminded of the case where a bench was constituted to review Kesavananda Bharati case, and was disbanded later. This looks like such a case," he says. He points out that any practice that disentitles equality will fall foul of Article 25.

Justice Indu Malhotra tells Dwivedi, "You had argued against women's entry.”

“Board has decided to respect the judgment", Dwivedi replies.

“Texts and scriptures do not show anything regarding the practice,” Dwivedi for TDB tells the court. Dwivedi tells the apex court, “We have to transform society and include women in all walks of life. We should not point out biological attributes to exclude women from any walk of life.”

“Equality is the dominant theme of Constitution,” Dwivedi says.

sabarimala_protest-647x363.jpeg

 

12:50 PM, 06 Feb

'Exclusion of Women Not Essential to Hindu Religion'

Jaideep Gupta says, “Exclusion of women is not essential to Hindu religion. Every temple may be having its own practice. The court cannot go into the essential practices of every temple. That would mean each temple is a denominational temple. That will lead to the destruction of essential religious practice test.”

Essential practice of an individual temple will not amount to essential practice of the religion for the purpose of constitutional test, says Jaideep Gupta for Kerala government.

Non discrimination and non exclusion are two values found throughout the Constitution, says Jaideep Gupta.

“That social peace has been destroyed is not a ground for reviewing the judgment. Constitutional invalidity cannot be permitted to go on,” he said.

12:43 PM, 06 Feb

Kerala Govt Opposes Review

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta starts arguments for Kerala government, saying, "We are opposing the review as no grounds have been made out for review".

He says, the majority judgment had consensus on three points:

  • Ayyappas are not a religious denomination by themselves.
  • When a person's right to worship is violated, Article 25 gets violated.
  • Rule 3(b) is violative of the parent Act itself.

Arguments on untouchability and Article 17 do not affect the basis of judgment.

“Non consideration of arguments is not a ground for review. It is for the court to decide which all aspects should be considered. Essential practice of religion and essential practice of a temple cannot be confused. The court found that the practice was not an essential practice of Hinduism,” he said.

12:40 PM, 06 Feb

'When Religious Practice is Concerned, Court Should Accept Community's Word'

Advocate Sai Deepak makes submission. He says, “When it comes to essential religious practice, the court should accept the word of the community.”

Review petitioners conclude arguments. CJI asks other petitioners to give written submissions.

CJI also asks respondents to conclude within 90 minutes.

12:28 PM, 06 Feb

Petitioners' Counsel Makes Fresh Arguments

Parasaran begins his argument again. He said that the majority held Ayyappa devotees not to be a religious denomination on ground that persons from other faiths also visited Sabarimala. Merely because persons from other religions worshipped Ayyappa, it cannot be held that they do not form a religious denomination.

This finding needs to be reviewed, he says.

Gopal Sankaranarayanan, senior SC lawyer begins argument and says, "There are several other temples in India with gender-based restrictions. They will be affected by the judgment. But they were not heard."

12:24 PM, 06 Feb

'One's Faith May Be Another's Superstition'

Senior lawyer Venkatraman begins argument and says, "Either you believe in a ritual or opt to not become part of it. You cannot seek to become a part of ritual by questioning its basis.”

Venkataraman, Senior Advocate from Madras HC, begins his argument. "The 1991 Kerala HC judgment has considered evidence for treating the custom as an essential religious practice. That factual finding in that judgment has not been challenged, and has therefore become final," he says.

One's faith may be another's superstition. These aspects cannot be tested with rationality, Venkatraman says.

“Faith is faith. It cannot be split into permissible faith and impermissible faith,” Venkatraman.

“We will hear two more lawyers from the side of petitioners", CJI Gogoi tells, giving out an indication that proceedings could be wrapped up today itself.

12:00 PM, 06 Feb

Community Alone Can Decide if Belief Should Be Changed or Not

Shekhar Naphade, senior advocate appearing for TDB, begins argument, and said, "The effect of the judgment is a direction given to a religious community that they should not hold a belief.”

“This is an internal affair of a religion. Unless there is a criminal law which forbids a practice, the courts cannot interfere. The belief is part of the collective conscience of the community. The community has not accepted the court's judgment,” he said.

He said, the community alone can decide whether centuries-old belief should be changed or not. Few activists cannot get to decide that.

11:47 AM, 06 Feb

Belief in Deity's Nature Can't Be Measured With Constitutional Morality: Singhvi

Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi starts his arguments and says, "I have reasons for review". He clarifies that he is appearing for Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the former chairman of Travancore Devaswom Board.

Singhvi said, “The practice is based on the character of the deity. Only this temple has the deity with the concept of Naisthika Brahmachari. In Hinduism, gods are worshipped in various forms and manifestations. In Sabarimala, the deity is worshipped in this particular manner.”

“Here, the exclusion is not based on caste, but purely based on nature of the deity. So Article 17 has no application. Only the judgment of J Indu Malhotra took into consideration the Naisthika Brahmachari character of the deity; other judgments merely made a passing reference to it,” he said.

Civil Rights Act has to be read along with Articles 25 and 26, says Singhvi, in reference to an earlier query posed by Justice Nariman.

“Constitutional morality is applied on an external subjective standard. The belief in the nature of deity cannot be measured with constitutional morality.

11:23 AM, 06 Feb

Giri Counters 'Constitutional Morality' Argument

Senior Counsel V Giri, appearing for Chief Priest (Thanthri) of the temple, he begins. Giri said, “The restriction is based on the character of the deity.”

V Giri is now countering the 'Constitutional morality' argument which he submits find no place in the Constitution but has been evolved by 'Your Lordships'.

"Thanthri is regarded as the father of deity, and has special rights to preserve the essential character of the deity. None of the petitioners claimed to be devotees of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala,” submits Giri.

He says, “The practice has nothing to do with caste. Hence, the Sabarimala custom cannot be equated to untouchability. Hence, the Sabarimala custom cannot be equated to untouchability.”

V Giri concludes.

11:13 AM, 06 Feb

Parasaran Seeks Setting Aside of SC Verdict Allowing Entry of All Women

“Untouchability will apply only if someone is treated less than a human being,” said K Parasaran, to which, Justice Nariman asked, "What if they keep out a scheduled caste woman? What happens to the feeling of that woman?"

He said that don't go by the notion that it was struck down only on the basis of untouchability. Parasaran submits that the exclusionary practice in Sabarimala is based on the character of the deity, which is that of Naishtika Brahmachari.

Justice Nariman also brings up Section 3 of Kerala Act to state that the rules are contrary to the Act. "We have taken note of everything you have submitted. Anything else?", CJI Gogoi asks Parasaran. Parasaran seeks setting aside of verdict that allowed women of all ages entry into Sabarimala temple.

Parasaran concludes.

10:57 AM, 06 Feb

Kanakadurga says she is Happy with Court's Order

Kanakadurga, one of the two women who entered the Sabarimala temple on 2 January, entered her in-law's house on Tuesday, 5 February, in Malappuram district after court allowed her to stay at her in-law's house. She was earlier allegedly assaulted by her mother-in-law for after she returned home.

Durga told ANI, "I got the court order and I could enter my house. I'm happy. I could not see my children today, but I hope I can see them next time. I don't have any difficulty to stay with them; they are not ready to stay with me. Everything will be solved."

10:52 AM, 06 Feb

It's an Error to Strike Down Temple Custom

It is an error to strike down a temple custom under Article 15, said Parasaran. Parasaran says that the judgment did not consider the crucial aspect that Article 15(2) does not cover religious places. The omission to consider this aspect constitutes an error apparent on record, he says.

Parasaran reads out Article 25(2)(b) and refers to Bijoe Emmanuel case of SC, which held that courts should not test the rationality of beliefs held religiously by persons.

He said, “SC gave an expanded interpretation to untouchability under Article 17, in variation with historical context. As per Constitution, untouchability is an offence. Offence has to be defined clearly.”

10:44 AM, 06 Feb

K Parasaran Opens Argument, Highlights Article 25, 15(2)

As the bench assembled, senior advocate K Parasaran, appearing for Nair Service Society, opens the argument. CJI Ranjan Gogoi asks lawyers appearing in review petitions to limit their arguments to review grounds.

K Parasaran submits to the apex court a case that primarily involved enforcement of fundamental rights under Article 25. An interesting aspect is both petitioners and respondents in this case are relying on Article 25.

Parasaran highlights that Article 15, which threw open all public institutions of secular character to all classes of person, conspicuously omitted religious institutions. Justice Rohinton Nariman interjects and says, “I have referred only to Article 15(2).”

"Article 15 threw open all public institutions of secular category. It does not refer to public institutions of religious category," said K Parasaran.

10:35 AM, 06 Feb

SC Commences Hearing

A bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra begin hearing the petitions.

10:33 AM, 06 Feb

SC to Hear 64 Petitions Shortly

Listed on Wednesday, 6 February, before the bench are 56 review petitions, 4 writ petitions, 2 transfer petitions filed by Kerala government, 2 special leave petitions, and a petition filed by Travancore Dewaswom Board seeking time to implement the judgment.

7:10 PM, 31 Jan

SC to Review Petitions on 6 February

The Supreme Court will hear the review petitions filed against verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on 6 February.

1:20 PM, 25 Jan

Director Priyanandan Attacked With Cow Dung after Post on Sabarimala

Malayalam film director Priyanandan TR was attacked with cow dung on Friday, 25 January, three weeks after he posted a derogatory poem on Sabarimala Ayyappan on Facebook, The News Minute reported.

According to reports, the attackers poured water mixed with cow dung on the director, near his house in Vallachira on Friday morning. The director was later admitted to the Cherpu Community Health centre where he is current undergoing treatment. Alleging that the attack was perpetrated by right wing workers including BJP and RSS, the director have stated that he can identify the culprits and will be filing a complaint soon, the report added.

9:10 PM, 20 Jan

Traditions of Temples Should Be Protected: Amritanandamayi

Terming as "unfortunate" the incidents that took place at Sabarimala over women's entry issue, spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi Sunday said traditions of temples should be protected though changes in the society were a necessity, reports PTI.

She was addressing a meeting organised by the Sabarimala Karma Samiti, a right-wing platform seeking protection of faith, culture and traditions of Sabarimala temple.

The Ayyappa Bhakta Sangamam (meeting of Ayyappa devotees), organised by the Samiti as part of its protest against the Kerala government's decision to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict, allowing women of all ages into Lord Ayyappa temple, was inaugurated by Amrithananda Mayi.

"The incidents that had happened at Sabarimala were unfortunate. It's necessary to follow the temple traditions.

Each temple has got its own traditions," she told the gathering.

9:10 PM, 20 Jan

KEY EVENT

Sabarimala Temple Closes after Annual Pilgrimage Season

After witnessing unprecedented protests over the entry of women of menstruating age, the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala was closed Sunday, 20 January, marking the culmination of the over two-month-long stormy annual pilgrimage season, reports PTI.

As the temple closed, the BJP ended its 49-day-long relay hunger strike in front of the state Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, demanding lifting of ban orders and restrictions at Sabarimala, which the LDF government rejected.

While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Sunday lashed out at the Sangh Parivar and said its Sabarimala stir was a "complete failure", BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai claimed it was aimed at protecting the traditional faith of devotees and it had "won in garnering mass support.”

3:25 PM, 20 Jan

After Hunger Protest, Party to Start Next Level of Agitation: Kerala BJP President

Kerala BJP State President PS Sreedharan Pillai said, “After the hunger protest, BJP will start next level of agitation in Sabarimala issue. The party will start an interaction with people for the next two weeks as part of the agitation.”

Sabarimablao1.jpg

10:57 PM, 19 Jan

We Failed in Our Protest over Sabarimala Issue, Says BJP

The BJP on Saturday, 19 January, admitted that its fight to protect the faith of devotees on the Sabarimala issue was 'not entirely successful.' The party has been spearheading the nearly two-month-long agitation against the decision of the Kerala government to implement the Supreme Court order allowing entry of women of all age groups into the shrine of Lord Ayyappa.

Speaking at the venue of the protest, state BJP president P S Sreedharan Pillai said the party would end the indefinite fast on Sunday.

"There were notable achievements during certain phases of the agitation, but, our fight to protect the faith was not entirely successful," he said.

"Even though we were unable to achieve 100 per cent success, we were able to garner more public support due to the blessings of Lord Ayyappa," Pillai said at the protest venue in front of the Secretariat here.

The protest lost steam at a point of time when the saffron party was unable to field known leaders to take part in the indefinite relay fast.

The fast was started by party general secretary A N Radhakrishnan followed by C K Padmanabhan and Shobha Surendran, among others.

Meanwhile, the BJP-led by National Democratic Alliance (NDA) met Kerala Governor P Sathasivam and submitted a memorandum seeking withdrawal of 'fabricated' cases registered against 'devotees' on the Sabarimala issue.

The memorandum, with around one crore signatures from people from Kerala and elsewhere, seeks to end the police restrictions at the hilltop shrine.

Pillai, who led the delegation, sought the release the activists who were jailed during the recent protests on the women's entry issue.

12:26 PM, 19 Jan

Two Women Stopped from Entering Sabarimala in Their Second Attempt

After a second failed attempt, two women had to return from the Nilakkal base camp. Protesters had gathered at Pamba, about 5 km away from the shrine. Despite police warning, the duo went ahead, only to be turned away. Reshma Niashanth and Shanila had tried reaching the temple last week as well.

10:10 AM, 19 Jan

Govt's List of Women Who Entered Sabarimala Includes a Man's name

While the Kerala government’s list claims that 51 women have entered the shrine since the SC’s order, it has been found that some of the women mentioned in the list are actually above the age of 50. And one of the names mentioned in the list – Paranjothi – is in fact a man.

6:26 AM, 19 Jan

Cong, BJP Hit out at CPI(M)-Led LDF Govt for 'Lying in the Affidavit'

Strongly reacting to the CPI(M)-led LDF government’s submission of an affidavit in the apex court, the main opposition Congress and the BJP hit out at the state government, alleging it was lying in the affidavit, PTI reported.

BJP state President P S Sreedharan Pillai termed the government's submission as "the biggest lie of the century."

"In case if anyone had visited the temple, they should have come openly. Everything should have been done in a transparent manner. The CPI(M) and the government had failed in the Sabarimala issue and this was an attempt to hide it. They are fooling people," Pillai told PTI.

The Congress also trained its guns on the LDF government, saying the state administration had become "a laughing stock after submitting erroneous and misguiding affidavit."

"This submission of wrong affidavit has brought shame to the state. The Chief Minister was responsible for this," PTI quoted KPCC President Mullappally Ramachandran as saying.

6:26 AM, 19 Jan

Controversy Erupts over Kerala Govt's Affidavit in Supreme Court

Controversy erupted in Kerala after the CPI(M)-led LDF government on Friday, 18 January, submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court claiming 51 women in menstrual age entered the Sabarimala temple during the ongoing annual pilgrimage season.

The BJP, the Sabarimala Karma Samiti and the Pandalam royal family, associated with the Lord Ayyappa temple, came down heavily on the state government saying there were discrepancies in the age of the women devotees mentioned in the affidavit.

“7,564 women had registered online for visiting the hill-top shrine. As per the virtual 'queue' facility reports, 51 women between the age group of 10-50 have visited the temple. However, we don't know whether all of them have managed to reach the Sannidhanam (temple complex) and offered prayers or not," news agency PTI quoted Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran as saying in Thiruvananthapuram.

12:20 PM, 18 Jan

SC Orders Security for Women Who Entered Sabarimala

The Supreme Court, on Friday, asked the Kerala government to provide security to Kanakadurga and Bindu Ammini, the two women who entered the Sabarimala shrine on 2 January. The two had sought round-the-clock police protection citing fear of reprisal.

The court, however, refused to entertain their plea that no purification rites should be conducted after women enter the shrine.

Meanwhile, Kerala government informed the apex court that 51 women in the age group of 10-50 years had entered the Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala since the SC verdict.

12:29 PM, 17 Jan

Women Who Entered Sabarimala Seek Police Protection, SC to Hear Plea Tomorrow

Supreme Court to hear pleas of Kanakadurga and Bindu Ammini, the women who had entered Sabarimala, tomorrow.

The two women had sought police protection earlier as well.

6:34 PM, 16 Jan

CPI(M) Hits Back at Modi's Comments, Says PM Speaking like RSS 'Pracharak'

Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his comments on the Kerala government over the Sabarimala issue, the CPI(M) said though he took an oath on the Constitution, but he was speaking like a 'pracharak' of the RSS.

The party said the Modi's comments on the issue were "atrocious and condemnable".

"Mr Modi forgot that he had taken oath on the Constitution of India and he spoke as an RSS pracharak not as the Prime Minster. His statement constitutes a direct assault on the Indian Constitution and the Supreme Court," the party said in a statement.

3:36 PM, 16 Jan

Two Women Who Were Stopped From Entering Sabarimala Begin Hunger Strike

After being denied entry into the Sabarimala shrine owing to protests, Reshma Nishanth and Shanila Sateesh have begun a hunger strike in retaliation at an undisclosed location, reported The News Minute.

The duo has reportedly begun a hunger strike demanding that they be provided with adequate security arrangements to ensure a peaceful darshan at the shrine.

1:46 PM, 16 Jan

Stopping Women from Entering Sabarimala Is Barbaric: Devaswom Minister

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran has called the act of stopping women devotees from visiting Sabarimala barbaric.

"All women who have followed the vritham can enter Sabarimala. The act of stopping devotees from visiting the shrine is barbaric. What's happening at Sabrimala is goondaism," he said.

11:46 AM, 16 Jan

God Doesn't Have a Problem with Women: Woman Who was Stopped Midway

Speaking to the media, Reshma Nishanth, the woman who was stopped by protesters enroute Sabarimala, said that God does not have a problem with women coming to Sabarimala.

“Over 100 women have already been able to come to Sabarimala which means the God doesn't have an issue with us coming. Then why are these men protesting? What is the culture they are stating?” she said.

11:46 AM, 16 Jan

Two Women Stopped by Protesters at Neelimala

Two women below the age of 50, Reshma Nishanth and Shanila Satheesh, who attempted to make the trek to Sabarimala temple early Wednesday morning, 16 January, were stopped by protesters at the hill.

Nisha and Shanila were among the three women who organised the press conference in Kochi in November 2018, to express their wish to visit the Sabarimala temple.

11:46 AM, 16 Jan

Woman Who Entered Shrine Allegedly Attacked by Mother-in-Law

Civil supplies employee Kanaka Durga (39), one of the two women who entered Sabarimala temple on 2 January, has allegedly been attacked by her mother-in-law upon her return home.

She sustained a head injury. She is currently undergoing further examination at a hospital in Perinthalmana.

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