Sabarimala women entry: Chief priest's family member asks CJI to reach a verdict

Sabarimala Temple
Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala. Photo: Nikhilraj P/Manorama

New Delhi: A senior member of the Thazhamon Madom, the family of the head priests of Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple, has sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India, N V Ramana requesting him to consider the case of the entry of women to the hill shrine.

The letter was written by 87-year-old Devaki Antharjanam, wife of former supreme priest Kandararu Maheshwararu. She has requested the CJI to bring a resolution to the issue considering the relevance of the case.

Antharjanam said in her letter that the Sabarimala women entry is a landmark case in the history of the Indian judiciary. But it made little progress in the past two years and the hearing was postponed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The octogenarian pointed out that prominent personalities including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had extended support to Ayyappa devotees.

She said that this shows the significance of the case and sought the CJI to resume hearing and reach a decision as early as possible.

The case

In September 2018, by a 4:1 majority verdict, a Supreme Court bench had lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 years from entering the Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala and held that the centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional.

Right-wing groups had clashed with the police following the visit of two women of menstrual age at the temple under police protection on January 2, 2019. The latter had arrived at the shrine emboldened by the Supreme Court order

In November 2019, a five-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi framed "larger issues" concerning essential religious practices of various religions while passing an order on the review of the 2018 Sabarimala judgment.

The bench led by Justice Gogoi clubbed other pending cases on subjects as varied as female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras, entry of Parsi women who married inter-faith into the fire temple and entry of Muslim women into mosques and referred all these matters to a larger bench.

Chief Justice S A Bobde, who succeeded Justice Gogoi, set up a nine-judge Bench to conduct the hearing on the reference.

Though the nine-member Constitution Bench started hearing in the case in January 2020, it could not be completed.

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