Sabarimala #1: Petitioners Argue Temple Entry Not Essential Part of ReligionSabarimala Temple Entry
On July 18th 2018, the Supreme Court began hearing the arguments in the Sabarimala Temple case before a five Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar, Rohinton Nariman and Indu Malhotra.
The Supreme Court will decide whether the Sabarimala temple’s customary religious practice, which prohibits entry of women between ages 10-50, is discriminatory and violates equality guaranteed under the Constitution.
For around the first 45 minutes, Mr. Gupta read out the provisions of the referral order.
Mr. Gupta: Sabarimala temple part of Hindu religion, not a distinct denomination
Mr. R.P. Gupta, representing the petitioners, noted that previous Kerala government had supported women’s entry to Sabarimala. He argued that temple entry cannot form essential part of a religion and it does not enjoy protection under Article 25 of the Constitution.
Mr. Gupta argued under Article 26(b) of the Constitution, a religious denomination has autonomy in managing the internal affairs of a religion subject to public order, morality and health. Mr. Gupta narrated the history of Devasom Board, the controlling body of Sabarimala temple, to argue that Sabarimala temple is not a distinct religious denomination and it is a part of Hindu religion.
Mr. Gupta argued that the Devasom Board does not have a separate administration and gets state funding under various schemes. To support his contentions that it is not a religious denomination, he cited Shirur Matt and S.P. Mittal to buttress his arguments. He specifically cited S.P. Mittal to argue that continuity of denomination is essential to be granted protection under Article 26(b).
Mr. Gupta added that Dewasom Board is a part of the Hindu religion. Women have exalted position in Hindu religion, any custom which prohibits women entry is both anti-hindu and anti-women.
He noted that continuity of this religious custom is questionable since during Maharaja’s time women were allowed inside the temple. He added that any addition in due course of time requires to be examined carefully.
The hearings will resume at 2.00 P.M.