Sabarimala temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala. It is the site of one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world with an estimate of between 40 million and 50 million devotees visiting every year.
On Thursday, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court with a 3:2 majority referred to Kerala’s Sabarimala temple case to a larger bench of seven judges. The bench did not put any stay on the judgment passed on 28 September 2018 that had lifted the ban on entry of women between age 10 and 50 to the temple.
The bench also mentioned that the issue is not only related to women entering Sabrimala temple but it also concerns entry of Muslim women in mosques. The larger bench will look at all the issues of the restrictions imposed on women for entering religious places. The five-judge constitutional bench which is headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and members Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra had pronounced its judgment in the Sabarimala temple case.
Previously, on 28 September 2018, the apex court had ended an age-old practice of keeping out women in their menstruating age from the temple and called it discriminatory. Following the decision, 56 review petitions and some fresh writ petitions were filed challenging the verdict.
The Court had heard the review petitions and writ petitions in open court before reserving its verdict on 6 February this year.
Soon after the apex court’s September 2018 judgement, when the women below 50 years of age tried entering the temple, Kerala saw state-wide mass protests that later turned violent. The temple town was virtually turned into a fortress with hundreds of police personnel, including armed commandos and women cops above 50, deployed in large numbers.
The temple’s annual pilgrim season started on 16th November, Kerala’s police chief Loknath Behra on Wednesday said over 10,000 police personnel will be deployed in phases during the two-month-long season.