SC to take up Sabarimala case in 3 weeks, orders finalisation of related issues

The number of devotees to Sabarimala temple has reportedly crossed 1.1 crore this season and the authorities expect a rise in footfall during the final leg of the Mandalam season (file photo)

A nine-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court on Monday (January 13) said it will hear the pleas regarding discrimination against women in various religions, after three weeks.

The bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde also asked four senior lawyers to convene a meeting to decide issues to be taken up by it in the Sabarimala reference case. The apex court entrusted its Secretary General with coordinating with lawyers in reframing or adding issues to be dealt by it. The lawyers are scheduled to meet on January 17.

Earlier, when the bench assembled Bobde had clarified that it was not considering review pleas in the Sabarimala case. “We are not hearing review pleas of Sabarimala case. We are considering issues referred to by a five-judge bench earlier,” the bench said.

The nine-judge Constitution bench said that it will hear only the questions referred in the review order passed by it on November 14, 2019.

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The bench also constitutes justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhusan, L Nageswara Rao, MM Shantanagoudar, SA Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant.

An earlier five-judge bench headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, had referred a batch of 65 petitions filed against its September 28, 2018 order allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple, to the larger bench for hearing. The bench had given a 3:2 split decision on petitions seeking a review of the apex court’s September 2018 decision.

A majority verdict by Gogoi and Justices AM Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra decided to keep pending pleas seeking a review of its decision regarding entry of women into the shrine, and said restrictions on women in religious places was not restricted to Sabarimala alone and was prevalent in other religions as well. The minority verdict by Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud gave a dissenting view by dismissing all review pleas and directing compliance of its September 28 decision.

The five-judge bench had noted that the larger bench will also look into other religious issues including the entry of women into mosques and female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

In its September 28, 2018 verdict, the Supreme Court by a majority verdict of 4:1 had lifted the ban that prevented women within the age of 10 to 50 from entering the Ayyappa temple in Kerala’s Sabarimala.

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The order had sparked protests across the state, some even turning violent.