The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a woman’s plea seeking directions to Kerala government to ensure safe passage of all women to the Sabarimala temple, regardless of their age or religion, ANI reported.
A bench comprising of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant took note of the submission of senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, on behalf of Fathima, that she had not been allowed to visit the shrine. “We will list the petition next week,” the court said.
On September 28, 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench, which included former Chief Justice Dipak Misra, had allowed women of all ages to enter the Ayyappa temple, leading to massive protests. Only a handful of women managed to enter the shrine. On November 14, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had ruled, in a 3:2 verdict, that a larger bench should again consider the matter of the entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.
While hearing the review petitions last year, the Supreme Court explicitly stated that the verdict to allow women enter the temple stands and has not been stayed, but no such specific mention has been made as part of the latest verdict.
Another activist, Bindu Ammini, moved the Supreme Court, noting in her plea that the judgement of September 2018 has not been stayed in review of the latest decision, according to The Hindu. She said the Kerala government was acting in gross contempt of the court’s decision by not allowing entry of women of menstruating age to the temple.
Ammini also alleged that the state government was giving a “free hand” to unlawful elements to harass and attack women en route to worship at the Sabarimala temple. “Direct immediate cessation of age verification and counselling done by the police officials at the behest of state of Kerala discouraging women of menstruating age from visiting Sabarimala and initiate appropriate proceedings against any state officials or private individuals who act in defiance of the orders of this court,” the plea said.
Ammini urged the top court to direct Kerala to “respect, fulfil and protect the rights of all women regardless of age to enter the Sabarimala temple without hindrance in any manner whatsoever and in particular by preventing the unruly mobs or individuals from obstructing them from entering the temple”.
“It is submitted that the responsible government which is duty bound to carry out the directions of this court cannot be allowed to take flimsy excuses for non-cooperation when any woman wanted to exercise her right to worship at Sabarimala,” she added.
The state government on November 15 said it will not protect women who plan to visit the Sabarimala temple. Kerala Devaswom Board Minister Kadakampally Surendran had said those seeking protection to visit the shrine will have to get a court order.
Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of this article erroneously identified the petitioner as Bindu Ammini. The pleas of Bindu Ammini and Fathima are separate, and the one mentioned before the Supreme Court on Wednesday was Fathima’s.