New Delhi: The Travancore Devaswom Board, which presides over the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, took a sharp U-turn in the Supreme Court on Wednesday by supporting its verdict which had allowed women of all age groups to enter the shrine. The board, which also has State government nominees, told a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that it is high time that a particular class is not discriminated on the ground of “biological attributes”.
The Board had earlier vehemently asserted that the celibate character of Lord Aiyappa at Sabarimala temple was a unique religious feature which was protected under the constitution. The Board asserted on Wednesday that its U-turn was not due to any political pressure. Some right-wing activists have alleged that the Board changed its stand before the court under pressure from the State’s CPI(M)-led LDF government.
On Justice Indu Malhotra’s question that it was a complete change of its stand, the Board said, “We have taken a decision to respect the judgment of the court”. During the verdict in September, Justice Malhotra held the minority opinion that except for social evils like Sati, it was not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down.
The Bench on Wednesday heard more than 60 petitions, a majority of which urge a rethink of the verdict. The judges have reserved verdict on whether they would review the matter. In the forenoon, the Kerala government took the stand that it was in agreement with last year’s verdict and had urged dismissal of petitions seeking its review. ‘‘Customs are subject to fundamental rights.
If religious practice is in conflict with the Constitution, it has to go,” the government told the court. ‘‘Women cannot be excluded from any walk of life on biological attributes… equality is the dominant theme of the Constitution”, said Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the TDP, adding that people should gracefully accept the apex court’s verdict.