The Supreme Court will on Thursday deliver its verdict on a bunch of pleas seeking a review of its September 2018 order allowing the entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple that triggered protests by traditionalists in the state.
The temple will open for an annual three-month pilgrimage on November 17. As many as 65 petitions were filed against the September 28, 2018, verdict that ended the ban on entry for women and girls of menstruating age, between 10 and 50 years, into the temple and upheld the right to equality of worship.
A Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi-led five-judge Constitution bench reserved its decision over the review pleas on February 6. The apex court, by a majority verdict of 4:1, had called the practice of barring women of a certain age group from entering the temple illegal and unconstitutional.
Ahead of the court verdict, the state has been put on high alert. Police have stepped up vigil in Pathanamthitta district where the temple is situated. They have planned elaborate security arrangements and will deploy 10,200 personnel during the three-month season.
Devotees have blocked attempts of women in this age group, who have attempted to visit the temple. Women have even been threatened and pelted with stones during protests against the ruling even as some of them have managed to pray at the temple under police protection.
Traditionalists maintain that women of childbearing age should not be allowed inside the temple because the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappan, is celibate.
Many devotees, who have called for the return of the status quo at the temple, are hopeful following the top court’s verdict in the Ayodhya title dispute case that paved the way of construction of a temple in Ayodhya and declared deity Ram Lalla a juristic person. A juristic person is a legally recognized non-human legal entity entitled to rights like a human being. The devotees say that Ayyapan has certain rights that have to be respected.
Both the Congress and the BJP have backed the protests by traditionalists, citing the sentiments of the devotees. The BJP has criticised the CPI (Marxist)-led state government for trying to implement the ruling and blamed it for undermining Hindu traditions.