Sabarimala review petitions hearing likely to be deferred

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New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANS) With one of the judges from the bench on medical leave, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it may not take up hearing on January 22 petitions seeking review of the judgment permitting women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala shrine.

“Justice Indu Malhotra is on leave due to medical reasons,” said Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

Justice Malhotra is the lone woman judge in the five-judge Constitution bench scheduled to hear the petitions against the landmark September 28 verdict that generated passions in Kerala, with traditionalists and the Hindu rightwing openly opposing the ruling.

The apex court bench also comprising Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud on November 13 had decided to go for open court hearings of the 49 petitions seeking a recall of the verdict.

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A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had junked the age-old tradition of the Lord Ayyappa temple by a majority verdict of 4:1.

It said that the ban on women in the menstruating age group, whose presence at the Sabarimala temple was considered “impure”, violated their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantee of equality.

The petitioners seeking recall of the verdict argued that besides “patent legal errors” in the verdict, the assumption that the temple practice was based on notions of menstrual impurity was factually erroneous.

Pointing to the massive protests against the verdict by women worshippers, the petitioners contended that these “clearly demonstrate that overwhelmingly large section of women worshippers are supporting the custom of prohibiting entry of women”.

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