A senior police officer on Thursday told the Kerala High Court that four policemen in civilian clothing had provided protection to the two women of menstruating age who entered the Sabarimala temple on January 2, PTI reported.

Civil servant Kanakadurga and law lecturer Bindu Ammini had offered prayers at the Ayyappa shrine, months after massive protests broke out in the state against the Supreme Court’s verdict in September allowing women of all age to enter the temple.

Pathanamthitta Superintendent of Police T Narayanan informed the court that the two women were ushered into the temple via a gate meant for the staff of the Travancore Devaswom Board, which administers the shrine. The women had requested the policemen stationed in Pamba to accompany them to the temple complex, and they had entered the sanctum sanctorum through the temple door behind the “kodimaram”, or flag pole, he added.

The submission was made in an affidavit filed in response to a report by the court-appointed committee on Sabarimala. It added that the police took the two women through the special gate as they wanted to avoid any commotion at the 18 holy steps leading to the shrine.

The temple had conducted a purification ritual a day after they offered prayers.

According to the affidavit, protestors from the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, Achara Samrakshana Samithi as well as a prominent political party had “wrongly restrained” the two women during their first attempt to trek to the shrine on December 24 last year.

“In the said circumstances, it was obligatory on the part of the police to protect the life and liberty of these two women in their attempt to trek to Sabarimala on January 2, which right was conferred on them by the judgement of the honourable Supreme Court,” the affidavit said.

Narayanan said the police were constitutionally obligated to provide the women protection and had acted accordingly. They had assessed the security situation at Sabarimala on January 2 and concluded that it was “conducive” for them to trek to the temple.

“The police also decided to provide them cover in civil dress so as to avoid the attention of the protestors, if any, at Sabarimala,” said the affidavit. “The entry of these two women to the Sabarimala temple was legal and proper and the same was in accordance with the dictum laid down by the honourable apex court.”

Narayanan said the women had entered the temple at 3.52 am. They had peacefully offered prayers and none of the devotees present inside had raised any issue with them.

The two women moved the Supreme Court on January 17 seeking security and police protection after Kanakadurga was allegedly assaulted by her mother-in-law at home. The top court had directed the Kerala government to provide the women round-the-clock security.

Earlier this week, Kanakadurga’s husband and his family refused her entry into their house. Kanakadurga has refused to apologise and said she will fight her case legally.