Wll balance right to equality, religious practice, SC on Sabarimala

New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday said that it would balance the right to equality with the right to freedom of religion and to manage religious affairs under the constitution while examining the plea against ban on entry of women aged 10 to 50 years into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

“Is such a ban is so intrinsically fundamental for religion. Do you mean to say that tradition and practice is bound to stay despite (the constitutional) right to equality,” asked the apex court bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice N.V.Ramana.

Appointing senior counsel Raju Ramachandran and K. Ramamoorthy as amicus curiae to assist the court in the hearing of the matter, the bench asked could a temple make a discrimination between men and women when there is no (gender) discrimination in Vedas and Upanishads or any other scripture.

Hundred people belonging to a mutt can have discrimination between men and women and prohibit the entry of women, but a public religious place has to be within the constitutional parameters, observed Justice Misra.

As court said that discrimination between man and woman cropped up only historically, senior counsel K.K.Venugopal, appearing for the Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, told the court that “for a thousand years, this is in practice, why are you digging it now?”

Saying that they would examine the scriptural prohibition and the constitutional prohibition, Justice Ghose said that the matter before the court requires a “deep research”.

“We have to take into account all the aspects including beliefs while looking into the matter,” he said.

Making it clear that it would take holistic view of the matter before it, the court said: “We are not taking a narrow view. We want to ensure there is a constitutional balance. In public religious temples all rules have to be within the constitutional parameters… whether there can be total prohibition for women in age group of 10 to 50 from entering Sabarimala Temple.”The court said this in the course of the hearing of a plea by Indian Young Lawyers Association and others questioning the ban on the entry of women of this age group into the temple.

Making it clear that it would entertain the arguments that were permissible and nothing “emotional and sentimental”, the court adjourned the matter as sought by the Devaswom Board as it wanted to place more material and documents before it.

The next hearing will take place on April 11.

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