SC to examine women’s entry in Mosques, Parsi Fire Temples along with Sabarimala

The Supreme Court on Thursday said a seven-judge bench will be convened to review pleas for its 2018 Sabarimala verdict. The five-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, split 3:2 on the issue of entry of women into the shrine, but was unanimous in its decision that the various other religious issues should be referred to the seven-judge bench.

The apex court said the seven-judge bench will not only look into the Sabarimala case but will also hear the issue of Muslim women’s entry to mosques, cases on female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community and access to fire temples or ‘towers of silence’ for Parsi women who marry outside the community.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “Restrictions on women in religious places are not restricted to Sabarimala alone and are prevalent in other religions also.” The apex court should evolve common policy on religious places like Sabarimala, the CJI added. He also mentioned issues such as those relating to the conflict between Shirur Math and Dargah for the consideration of the larger bench.

"The endeavour of petitioners was to revive debate on religion and faith," CJI Ranjan Gogoi added.

The verdict last year had ruled to allow women between the ages of 10 and 50 to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The apex court had given a majority verdict of 4:1 with Justice Indu Malhotra as the sole dissenter. Allowing women to enter the famous Ayyappa shrine, the SC had held that this centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional.

Soon after, numerous petitions seeking a review of the verdict were filed. The apex court will have to deliver its judgement on as many as 65 petitions - including 56 review petitions and four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas -- which were filed after its verdict sparked violent protests in Kerala.

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