February 7, 2024
symbolizing the legal focus

Studying the complex relationship between religion and government power is best done in India. Examining the controversial discussions surrounding religious freedom and secularism is made easier by the nation’s distinct religious, sociological, and political contexts.

This study will concentrate on the Supreme Court of India because it handles some of the most difficult religious legal challenges. India’s varied religious landscape highlights the problem of pluralism.

Sabarimala Case: Overview

  • The social and legal significance of religious freedom determination is reflected by the debate surrounding the SC judgment on the controversy over the entry of women into the premises of the temple.
  • This case of Sabarimala is among the most recent uprisings for women’s rights.
  • It is a fight by women against centuries of exploitative religious principles that prevent them from entering the sacred premises of the Sabarimala Temple at the time of menstruation.
  • Such protests opposing women’s rights demonstrate that establishing gender equality in India is still a pipe dream.

sabarimala case summary

Facts of the Case:

  • The admittance of women into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, India, has been the subject of a legal and social debate.
  • Since Lord Ayappa, the temple’s god, is thought to be celibate, the limitation on women of menstrual age entering the shrine is primarily focused on upholding his Brahmacharya, or celibacy.

Background Issues of the Case:

The sabarimala case name is Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Ors.There were major issues that were laid down in the case of Sabarimala. Some of them were:

  • Is the practise of not including women an “essential religious practise” under Article 25, and can a religious organization claim to be covered by the freedom to govern its own affairs in religious matters?
  • Is it true that the rules that were laid down by the Public Worship Authorities of Kerala allow a ‘religious denomination’ to exclude women aged 10 to 50 from entering? If so, does limiting women’s access on the grounds of their sex contradict Article 14 and Article 15(1) of the Constitution of India?

sabarimala case judgment:

The sabarimala case judgment date on September 28, 2018, the SC declared, in a 4:1 decision, that the prohibition on women entering the Sabarimala shrine was unconstitutional and discriminatory. Consequently, an order was issued to remove the prohibition on women of any age group accessing the place of worship. The allegations that were put forth by the petitioners were upheld by CJI Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar J, R.F. Nariman J, and Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, and Justice Indu Malhotra was the only one to provide a dissenting opinion.

Opinion by CJI Dipak Mishra, Justice Khanwilkar, Justice Nariman, Justice Chandrachud:

  • According to these four judges, the custom was not a necessary component of religion.
  • The majority of judges declared that the practice was discriminatory in accordance with Article 15, even though they did not specifically address the question of whether the custom violated the right to equality under Article 14.
  • The right against untouchability, as highlighted by Justice Chandrachud (the current Chief Justice of India), includes all forms of social exclusion stemming from ideas of ‘purity’.
  • Furthermore, it was decided that the Public Worship Rules’ Rule 3(b), which allowed the prohibition of women, was unlawful.

Dissenting Opinion by Justice Indu Malhotra:

  • Justice Indu Malhotra disagreed with the majority ruling, arguing that courts cannot use rationality arguments when discussing religious issues.
  • She maintained that judges shouldn’t use their own opinions to determine what constitutes an essential practice in a religion.
  • The decision of whether a religious practice or custom is essential has to be made within the religion and is a question of personal faith.
  • Justice Malhotra noted that Article 25 of the Constitution guaranteed people’s freedom to practice their beliefs. It was part of the harmony between religion and fundamental rights to allow different sects to freely exercise their respective practices and beliefs.

The case’s importance extends beyond the particular circumstances surrounding Sabarimala, touching on matters like Muslim women’s access to mosques, women’s rights for Parsis, and the Bohra community’s practice of female genital mutilation. A precedent for combating discriminatory behaviours, advancing gender equality, and defending individual rights in the context of religion has been established by the Sabarimala case.

The Supreme Court ruled that allowing women to attend Sabarimala was in the public’s and the constitution’s best interests. Though the SC has permitted women to go inside the temple, there are currently no standards or guidelines ensuring that they may do so safely, which is a significant issue that needs to be addressed. Women’s entrance to Sabarimala remains a distant goal for them; thus far, they are only allowed entry to the temple on paper, negating the main purpose of the ruling.

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