41-day penance indirect way to debar women from visiting Sabarimala: SC

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New Delhi,JUL 19:
The Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Thursday orally disapproved the Travancore Dewaswom Board’s imposition of 41-day penance on women to visit the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple. The CJI observed that a condition, which is impossible to follow, is untenable in law.
The CJI heading a five-judge Constitution bench in the Supreme Court made these preliminary remarks when senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the board, justified the imposition of 41-day penance for both men and women to visit the temple.
The bench, which also included Justices Rohinton Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, was hearing a petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association and five other women advocates challenging the ban in vogue for several years and seeking removal of the restrictions in the entry.
The CJI told Singhvi, “The board is actually doing something indirectly what it cannot do directly. Imposition of something which is impossible to be done is an indirect way of debarring women in the age group of 10 to 50 as they cannot observe penance continuously for 41 days in view of the menstrual cycle.”
“Why do the petitioners insist on visiting this particular temple”, he asked.
The CJI responded by saying “because they believe in the deity. It’s the devotion which drives people to visit the temple and it is their choice and it is for you to justify why women be not allowed to enter. Singhvi said that if they indeed believe in the deity, they must respect the traditions of the temple and observe its practices.
Justice Indu Malhotra pointed out that restrictions based on menstruation are present in other religions as well. She also drew attention to the Old Testament.Senior counsel K Parasaran submitted that the devotees don’t have the right to change the character of the deity according to their convenience. He said the object of worship deity in a particular form is to obtain salvation.
The entire argument so far has been from the point of view of a worshipper, he said and added that what deity is being worshipped and in what form is also important, which has not been argued so far.

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