Entry of women in Sabarimala: SC refers case to Constitutional Bench

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As the Supreme Court is set to pronounce its verdict on ban on women's entry into Kerala's Sabarimala Temple, women right activist on Friday expressed hope for a positive and landmark judgment in the matter.

In February, the top court had indicated that it may refer a plea for allowing entry of women aged between 10 to 50 years in the temple to a five-judge constitution bench.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan passed the judgment to that effect today.

The management of the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Pathanamthitta district, had earlier told the apex court that the ban on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years was because they can not maintain "purity" on account of menstruation.

This assumes significance as after coming to power, the CPM-led Left Front government has favoured the entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple - a position that is divergent from the one earlier taken by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government.

On 11 January, the court had questioned the ban, saying this can not be done under the Constitution. It said that this can not be done under the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has, in the past, termed illegal traditional and religious practices that violate the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution. Meanwhile, the apex court had asked all the parties to submit their submissions. The said ban has statutory backing in the form of Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965. After hearing petitions challenging the ban for quite some time now, the apex court is likely to announce its verdict today.

Senior Counsel KK Venugopal who appeared for Travancore Devasom Board, which manages the shrine, had told the court that the discrimination wasn't between men and women but was between women and women. "I am sure the judgment will also be very positive and landmark", she was quoted as saying.

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