This Case Summary is written by Anisha Ghosh, a student at Adamas University, Kolkata
“Worshiping goddess is necessary but giving equal treatment to women is mandatory”
Although we live in 21st century but unfortunately our society’s thinking stands in 19th century. As a modern generation of this country we know that thinking has become more scientific and logical so we should not believing in myth. Society need to accept custom in a logical way. Through this case we can see that how court stands for reasonableness instead of myth and enlightened about to identifying which custom is morally right. We do have a constitution which ensures certain rights and duties so we cannot violets them because of some certain illogical customs. In ancient time India has always been a male dominating society now also in some rural area of India we witness a male dominating society. It is not about who dominate the society but it is all about for getting equal rights and equal treatment.
Constitution of India believes in gender equality, secularism and freedom but the harsh reality is women are always the victim of such customs and traditions. In India there is a temple, which is known as Sabrimala temple and it is situated at Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. This temple is devoted to Lord Ayyappa where south Indian people worship him as a god of growth. They believed that prince of Pandalam dynasty was an avatar of Sastha who known as Manikandan and he medicated in the Sabrimala temple after that he known an avatar of lord Ayyappa. Section 4 of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Act, 1965 (for brevity, “the 1965 Act”) ensures that in the age of 10-50 years of age woman are not allow to entry in the temple. This kind of law arose many questions then a case was filed before the court for adjudication.
FACTS OF THE CASE
Lord Ayyappa is a celibacy god. In Sabrimala temple women cannot enter into the temple between the 10-50 years of age. Since ages this prohibitions had been practiced as a custom and usage. A case was filed in the session court claiming that this custom and usage is unconstitutional and violets article 14 and article 25 of the Indian Constitution. Session court gave verdict that there is no valid reason which can justify this custom and usage and this customs is unconstitutional. In 1990, S Mahendran filed a plea in Kerala High Court seeking a ban on women prohibition of entry to the temple. But, Kerala High Court imposed the age-old restriction on women of a certain age-group entering the temple. On August 4, 2006, the Indian Young Lawyers Association filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking to confirm entry of female devotees between the age group of 10 to 50 at the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala.
- Whether the practice of excluding women is an “essential religious practice” under Article 25 and Whether Ayyappa temple has a denomination character?
2. Whether Rule 3 of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship(Authorizing of Entry) based on biological factor women are not allow in the temple violets Articles 14&15(3) of the constitution?
3. Whether Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules,1965 is ultra vires to the provision of part III of the constitution?
The Petitioner contended, Hindu women are more idealizing than men so if there is any ban on entering into any temple then it would be anti-Hinduism. Puja ceremonies of Sabrimala temple signifies that it does not belong to any separate religion. It does not have any separate administration but this administration is administered under Cochin Hindu Religion Institution Act, 1950. Section (3b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Act 1965 has uses an expression that is ‘ at any time’. This expression does not properly expressing about prohibition on women’s entry but if any time specifically mentioned then that myth will continuing as a custom and usage so this Section (3b) is violated towards article 25(2) (b) of the constitution. In now days there are several customs exist which might not be right so court should take cognizance against that customs. If the rituals of Sabrimala does not come under ambit of religious denomination then it would come under ambit of article 12. If state would be prohibited from denying equal protection of law and state cannot discriminate on the basis of sex then it would be come under article 14 and 15. Article 51A(e) ensures ‘ dignity of women and it is an essential part of constitutional morality. Sabrimala is a denomination because rituals and customs of Sabrimala only protect under article 26(b).Women cannot practices Vrutham for 41 days because women would not abstinence from sexual activities and imposing restriction on women cannot be an essential aspect of Hindu religion. This kind of stereotype thinking stigmatizing women as a weaker character than men.
In responses, the respondent contended that Lora Ayyappa is known as ‘hyper masculine God’ because according to our mythological book lord Ayyapppa born out from the two male divine gods, those are lord Shiva and Mohini but Mohini is a female form of god Vishnu. For doing worship of lord Ayyappa devotees need to follow ‘Vrutham’. This ritual is for spiritual purification. For practicing Vrutham, devotees need to be follow certain rules those are; wearing black cloths and not allow to cutting nails, cutting hair, shaving off facial hair. They must not to touch any woman including their wives and daughters for 41 days. In the case of woman in between of 41 days they will have menstruation cycle then they will not follow it and it will be disrespectful for lord Ayyappa. This rule is not only applicable to woman, it is also applicable to men and this rule is not gender biased. This rule is not discriminatory in nature because it’s allows to entry every section of society including women but there are 2 criteria firstly, those who have not attain their puberty and secondly, those who are in menopause .According to the hindu customs when women are during their menstruation cycle they are not allowed to worship and also they cannot go to the temple. Under section 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965 have some restrictions and if those restrictions are allowed to operate only for 60 days then this section will not violets article 14,15 and 17 of the constitution and also will not fall under the purview of article 25 and 26 of constitution.
The notions of public order, morality and health cannot be used as a device to limit the freedom to freely practice religion and by denying women religious rights to enter into the Sabrimala temple, it discriminatory under Article 25.Thinking that women are impure and this kind of mentality build a barrier of untouchability so it also violets Article 17. Section 3 and Section 4(1) of the 1965 Act clearly specify that custom and usage must make space to the rights of all sections and classes of Hindus who wants to offer prayers at places of public worship and any interpretation would contrary to the purpose of 1965 act. Rule 3(b) of the 1965 Rules is ultra vires to the Article 15(1). According to former J. Indu Malhotra Sabrimala temple is a religious denomination so it is not violates Article 25.
In a 4:1 majority the court held that not to allow women in the temple is violated under Article 25(1) because our constitution gave equal right to everyone to practices their religion. Article 14 violated because a certain age group of women are ban to entry into the temple and rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Act, 1965 was ultra-virus to constitutional being violated of Article 25(1) and Article 12(1) of the Constitution of India.
In this case the Supreme Court of India allowed the writ petition and removed the ban on women entering into temple and also declared rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Act, 1965 unconstitutional.
According to Quran it is clearly mentioned that women are always impure because they have their menstruation cycle and they should not enter into the mosque. According to Bible menstruation cycle is a disease and also according to Gita, women have their menstruation cycle because this is curse given by lord Indro so during menstruation cycle women should not be allow to worship. This codified holy books are from ancient period but now we live in 21st century and we know that everything has some reason. Science has told us that without reasoning we should not believe in anything and according to Medical science menstruation cycle is a normal body process it is as normal as having food or water. Without this process a women cannot have a child, it is so important for every women in the world. In the landmark case of Sabrimala, five bench of judges was set up for giving judgement in this case. The judgement was delivered with the 4:1 majority. Unfortunately there was a judge who gave a dissenting opinion and that judge told that we should not interfere in the matter of customs and usage. If we would not interfere in the matter of old customs and usage then how we would remove ill-practice customs. In the previous times judiciary removed unnecessary customs such as triple talaq, dowry and sati. A review petition was filed in the year of 2019 on the basis of that Sabrimala temple is a separate religious denomination but that review petition was rejected. Court only have a power to remove the cruel customs but it is a duty to a every individual to stop this kinds of customs and this is a only path of saving the modern India. It is just a start for removing old customs which is not morally correct and there is a long path to go.
In ancient times, some rules were set by the society or any other person who was powerful like Brahmans, king at that time. We know very well about Chanakya, one of the best jurist in India. He told about women that ‘‘when women attain their puberty they should be control under her father, when she would be adult then she should be control under her husband and when she would be getting old then she should be control under her son’’. He also told that women should never be set free throughout their lifetime they should always be under the control of a man. After so many decades our society has remain patriarchy society and now also women did not get their equal right as man but for this we cannot only blame the men solely because to some extent there is also fault of women. This discriminatory rituals are still followed by women and then they carry forward to their next generation. After the Sabrimala judgement many women are against this judgement because they also think women are impure at the time of menstruation cycle but according to Medical science menstruation cycle is a natural process and it makes every women complete. We Indians feel proud about our customs and culture and we worship goddess yet we think during menstruation cycle women are not clean and they are impure. According to National Statistical office survey, Kerala has 96.2% literacy rate and if literate peoples in India is believing in such kind of baseless customs then it would be very hard to change people’s mindset in India. Indian judiciary take steps for our society so that we will not blindly believe in any unnecessary customs that will violets our constitutional rights, Customs are only valid till when it will not hurt others rights.