Sabarimala #5: Respondents Argue Deity Has a Right to Restrict Entry of Women

Sabarimala Temple Entry

On July 26th 2018, the five Judge Bench led by  Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud, R.F. Nariman and Indu Malhotra resumed hearing arguments in the Sabarimala Temple Entry case.

Mr. Radhakrishnan: Morality under Art.25(1) must be public morality

Mr. K. Radhakrishnan appearing for the Pandalam Royal Family (who established the temple), commenced his arguments by stating that freedom of religion under Article 25(1) is subject to ‘morality’, specifically – ‘public morality’.

The deity Ayyappa’s will, Mr. Radhakrishnan continued, was that devotees observe 41 days of ‘Tapasya’ before visiting him; since women of childbearing age can’t observe this they should restrain themselves from entering the temple. He further added that Ayyappa’s celibacy must be respected and constitutional morality must be interpreted in a way that does not defeat public and religious morality.

Radhakrishnan concluded his arguments by asking the Court to keep the special nature of Ayyappa in mind while deciding the case. The CJI observed that any interpretation which offends the spirit of the Constitution cannot be allowed.

Mr. Giri: Special nature of deity must be accepted; life of idol tied to certain unique practices

Senior Advocate V. Giri, representing the Thanthri (main priest of the temple), said that the worship of idols according to religious rituals is a core feature of the Hindu tradition and that Ayyappa’s celibacy should be respected. The idol acquires life after its installation in the temple and the sustenance of this life requires adherence to certain unique practices.

Mr. Sai Deepak, in his submissions, reiterated that the deity is a living entity enjoying the status of a juristic person since the temple is taxed by the State. He further claimed that the deity has a right under Article 25(1) that justifies the prohibition of women entering the temple.