The Kerala government also asserted in the court that social tension or disturbance of peace is not a ground to review the judgment.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on the 54 review petitions filed after its judgment of September 28, 2018, on entry of women into the Sabarimala shrine. After recording the submissions, the five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, asked counsels for the parties to file their written submissions and did not specify any date for pronouncing the verdict.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which had earlier opposed the verdict, on Wednesday took a U-turn and told the Bench that it was high time that a particular class not be discriminated on the ground of “biological attributes.”
The TDB, which runs the famous hilltop shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala, also on Wednesday opposed a batch of pleas seeking review of the Supreme Court verdict, even as several organisations sought reconsideration of the judgment. The Kerala government also asserted in the court that social tension or disturbance of peace is not a ground to review the judgment. As many as 65 petitions, including 56 review petitions and four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas, were filed in the court after its verdict had sparked violent protests in Kerala.
The TDB’s sudden change in stance surprised the bench, also comprising Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, as in earlier round of litigation, the TDB had opposed the PIL by Indian Young Lawyers Association seeking to throw open the shrine for all women. Although the TDB, for the first time, changed its position before the court, it had sought an explanation from the head priest for closing the temple to undertake its purification after two women aged below 50 had entered the temple and offered prayers.
The TDB said its decision to back women’s entry into the Ayyappa shrine was not due to any pressure following the Kerala government’s sta-nd on the issue. TDB president A. Padmak-umar told reporters in Thiruvanathapuram: “The board does not have to take a decision under pressure following the government stand on the verdict.”
Senior counsel Jaideep Gupta, appearing for the Kerala government, opposed the review petitions. He said that no grounds were made out for review. “The essential practice of an individual temple cannot be regarded as essential practice of a religion. Exclusion of women was not essential to Hindu religion,” submitted the counsel. He said social tension or disturbance of peace cannot be a ground to overturn the judgment and Kerala was committed to implement it.
When Justice Indu Malhotra asked senior counsel Rakesh Diwedi whether there is any change of stand by TDB, Mr. Diwedi said the board has taken a decision to respect the judgment and follow it. He said the judgment of September 28, 2018 seeks to bring an important change in society. “Women cannot be excluded from any walk of life on biological attributes... Equality is the dominant theme of the Constitution,” Mr Diwedi said.
Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini — the two women who entered Sabarimala to pray — said that what was being witnessed was not just a case of exclusion but of social boycott. She said that shopkeepers have been asked not to have any kind of dealings with the two women.
The fact is that the menstruating women are seen as polluting in this country, Ms Jaising said. She also noted that worship also came under freedom of conscience.
Advocate P.V.Dinesh, who appeared for a 10-year-old Hyderabad girl, contended that “if a 10-year-old girl can breach the eternal celibacy of God, then a child is being portrayed as a sexual object.”