Case Description

The Supreme Court is reviewing its 2018 judgment, wherein it declared unconstitutional the Sabarimala Temple's practice of excluding women of a 'menstruating age'.


The case background for the 2018 Sabarimala writ petition can be found here.

On 28 September 2018, a 4:1 majority of the Supreme Court held that the Sabarimala Temple's exclusionary custom is unconstitutional. The custom prohibited women between the ages of 10 and 50 years old from entering the temple. The judgment primary held that the custom violated the fundamental right to freedom of religion of female worshippers under Article 25 of the Constitution.


More than 50 review petitions were subsequently filed by various individuals and organisations including Kantaru Rajeevaru, the National Ayyappa Devotees (Women's) Association, the Nair Service Society, & the All Kerala Brahmin's Association. On 13 November 2018, the Court began hearing the review petitions in open court. As Chief Justice Dipak Misra had retired, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi replaced him on the Bench. The other judges on the Bench remained the same: Justices Ajay Manikrao KhanwilkarRohinton NarimanD.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.


One year later, on 14 November 2019, the Bench delivered a judgment keeping the review petitions pending and referring certain overarching constitutional questions to a larger Bench. These overarching issues pertain to women's acess to public religious institutions. By a narrow 3:2 majority, the Bench speculated that other freedom of religion cases may object to the reasoning in the 2018 Sabarimala judgment and order a referral. Justices Nariman and Chandrachud dissented, holding that this speculation went beyond the narrow scope of a review petition.


On 13 January 2020, a new Bench comprising the following judges will begin hearing the overarching referral questions: Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices, R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, Nageswara Rao, Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, S. Abdul Nazeer, R. Subhash Reddy, B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant.

Parties Involved

Do persons not belonging to a religious denomination enjoy the locus to file a PIL to contest a religious practice belonging to said denomination?

What is the extent to which the Court can enquire into an essential religious practice?

What is the scope of the expression ‘sections of Hindus’ mentioned in Article 25(2)(b)? Are women a section of Hindus?

Whether the meaning of ‘morality’ in Article 25(1) and Article 26 is related to constitutional morality or limited to religious faith or belief?

What is the scope of ‘public order, morality and health’ in Article 25(1) of the Constitution?

Whether the fundamental right to freedom of religion under Articles 25 and 26 can be restricted by the fundamental right to equality under Article 14?