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Wednesday 29 January 2020

Sabarimala: 9-member constitution bench of SC formed

The court had said earlier the issue of entry of Muslim and Parsi women in their respective holy places was analogous to the Sabarimala case

The Supreme Court has formed a nine-member constitution bench to hear the review petitions challenging the grant of access to women of all age groups in Sabarimala temple in Kerala. This bench will deal also with related cases on the alleged discrimination against Muslim and Parsi women in the places of worship of their respective communities.

The nine-member constitution bench will begin hearing the Sabarimala review petitions on 13 January.

The apex court informed in a notice issued on Monday that the petition for reconsideration of the landmark 2018 verdict of the apex court on the petition of the Indian Young Lawyers Association is being listed on 13 January.

The constitution bench comprises

  1. Chief Justice SA Bobde
  2. Justice R Banumathi
  3. Justice Ashok Bhushan
  4. Justice L Nageswara Rao
  5. Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar
  6. Justice S Abdul Nazeer
  7. Justice R Subhash Reddy
  8. Justice BR Gavai
  9. Justice Surya Kant

Significantly, Justices Rohintan Nariman, DY Chandrchud, AM Khanvilkar and Indu Malhotra of the five-member bench that had issued the original Sabarimala verdict are not part of the new bench that will hear the case. The previous bench also had the then CJI Dipak Misra.

In its original judgment, the court had allowed women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple. On 14 November last year, a five-member constitution bench, in a 3:2 majority verdict, referred the case to a seven-member constitution bench for reconsideration of the September 2018 decision to allow women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple.

However, the bench had said that the debate over the constitutional validity of religious traditions banning the entry of women and girls into religious places was not limited to the Sabarimala episode. The apex court had said that the entry of Muslim women in mosques and dargahs and that of women of Parsi community who marry non-Parsi men into an agiari/darb-e-mehr for the funeral of a relative, must be seen in the same light.

The bench had said that it was time the Supreme Court formulated a judicial policy for comprehensive justice. But this does not necessarily mean that the court will club the petitions and hear them together.

In the meantime, Rehana Fathima and Bindu Ammini, neither belonging to the sect of Lord Ayyappa’s devotees, tried to rush the apex court to an interim order allowing them to enter the Sabarimala shrine, with the help of their advocate Indira Jaising but was snubbed by the CJI.

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