The Kerala High Court recently refused to allow a 10-year-old girl to visit Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

Currently, women and girls between the ages of 10 and 50 years are not allowed entry into the hilltop shrine of Hindu deity Ayyappa.

On September 28, 2018, a five-judge Constitution bench, which included former Chief Justice Dipak Misra, allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, leading to massive protests.

On November 14, 2019, a five-judge Constitution bench ruled, in a 3:2 verdict, that a larger bench should consider the matter again.

The bench had decided to keep the review petitions in the matter pending until a larger bench determines questions related to essential religious practices.

On Tuesday, a High Court bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and Harisankar V Menon dismissed the 10-year-old girl’s petition, filed through her father, noting that the review petitions are pending before the Supreme Court.

The bench stated that the “question regarding the interplay between freedom of religion under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India and the provisions in Part III, particularly Article 14, and connected issues are pending before a larger Bench of the Supreme Court”.

Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of conscience, and the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate religion to all citizens. Article 26 states that every religious denomination has the right to form and maintain institutions for religious and charitable intents.

Provisions in Part 3 of the Constitution deal with Fundamental Rights. Article 14 refers to the principle of equality before law.

The minor girl had filed the petition through her father and legal guardian after her online application to visit Sabarimala was rejected by the Travancore Devaswom Board.

The Travancore Devaswom Board runs over 1,200 temples, including the Sabarimala temple. It is controlled by the Kerala government.

The girl told the court that the upper age limit of 10 years was only enforced to keep out girls who have hit puberty. She said that she had not attained puberty and could have pilgrimage to Sabarimala as per the prevailing customs.

The High Court, however, said that the age restrictions imposed on women are in “accordance with the usage prevalent from time immemorial”. It said such restrictions were not discriminatory and did not violate Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.