A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court is likely to be set up in January 2020 to review its Sabarimala judgment that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple in Kerala.
According to a notice sent out by the Supreme Court registry to the advocates connected with the case, the review petitions will be heard by a combination of seven judges, as per the court’s November 14 order and advocates “are requested to file four more sets of the paper books of the petition in the Supreme Court.”
On November 14, a five-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, by a 3-2 ruling, deferred its judgment on the review petitions saying that a larger bench need to settle seminal issues, including the interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution touching upon the right to profess, practise and propagate its own religion, are heard by larger bench of commensurate number of Judges.
The court, in its November 14 order, also said , “The debate about the constitutional validity of practices entailing the restriction of entry of women generally in the place of worship is not limited to this case, but also arises in respect of entry of Muslim women in a Durgah/Mosque as also in relation to Parsi women married to a non-Parsi into the holy fire place of an Agyari. There is yet another seminal issue pending for consideration in this Court regarding the powers of the constitutional courts to tread on question as to whether a particular practice is essential to religion or is an integral of the religion, in respect of female genital mutilation in Dawoodi Bohra community.”
The apex court bench, with justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra also, however, refused to stay the operation of the verdict that would have the effect of disallowing the entry of women into the hilltop shrine.
On September 28, 2018, the apex court ruled by a 4-1 majority that no woman can be stopped from entering Sabarimala temple, ending a traditional ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine. Women of reproductive age were restricted from entering the over 800-year-old shrine in south Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district because its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate. Subsequently, over 60 review and fresh petitions were filed in the top court asking the court to re-look its 2018 verdict as it clashed with the rights of the devotees.
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