The Kerala High Court on Wednesday said Sabarimala pilgrims cannot be prevented from moving in groups and chanting devotional songs to Lord Ayyappa. A division bench of the High Court issued the order based on pleas by several organisations against the imposition of prohibitory orders at Sabarimala, The Indian Express reported.
The bench of Justices PR Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar said that the imposition of Section 144, which prohibits the assembly of four or more persons, is meant to ensure smooth movement of pilgrims. The judges said that since going to the temple in groups and chanting keerthanams (devotional songs) is part of the pilgrimage, they cannot be prohibited.
However, the bench added that in case of “breach of peace”, the police can take appropriate action against the offenders, The Times of India reported.
The court also asked Advocate General CP Sudakara Prasad why the government had not implemented its earlier order on lifting restrictions at Sabarimala. The court was apparently referring to the decision of 110 pilgrims from Mumbai to return home due to the restrictions at the shrine. The judges also questioned the credentials of the police officers posted at Sabarimala.
Meanwhile, a local court granted conditional bail to Bharatiya Janata Party state General Secretary K Surendran and 70 people who were arrested in connection with protests at Sabarimala temple on November 17. The court in Pathanamthitta district directed the accused not to enter Ranni taluk, where the shrine is located, for the next two months, and ordered them to submit two personal sureties of Rs 20,000 each.
The hill shrine opened on November 16 for the third time after the Supreme Court in September overturned a ban on the entry of women of menstruating age to the temple. So far, protesting devotees have not allowed women between the ages of 10 and 50 to enter the shrine.