New Delhi: Emphasising that courts are not meant to write religious texts, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has declined to let women of Jain religion perform 'jal abhishek' of idols.
The court held that the practice of allowing only men offer water to the idol has to be construed as an essential religious practice that does not violate any other constitutional right.
A bench headed by Justice SC Sharma, which was dealing with the matter of abhishek ritual performed by Digambar (Terapanthi) sect, noted that this was not a case where entry of women or worship by them is restricted in temples.
"However, men are allowed to perform jal abhishek of idol Bawangajaji after taking bath and after wearing dhoti and dupatta. It is an essential religious practice and in no way can be termed as discrimination," said the court.
It pointed out that the Supreme Court's judgment on entry of women in the Sabarimala temple case stood at a different footing and can't be applied in this case since no women of any age group were stopped from entering or performing puja here.
It took note that the practice was being followed only to ensure that the ‘rules of Brahmcharya’ are followed.
"The practice is integral to the temple and it is ‘essential religious practice’ of the temple and in no way amounts to discrimination keeping in view Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees protection of the cherished liberties of faith, belief and worship to persons belonging to all religions in a secular polity," held the high court.
The bench added that the courts are certainly not meant to write the religious text, however, they are under an obligation to follow the religious text in the matter of cases dealing with religious dispute and to follow the old practices which are prevalent in religion so long as they do not violate constitutional rights of an individual.
The high court further said that judicial review of religious practices ought not be undertaken, as the court cannot impose its morality or rationality with respect to the form of worship of a deity.
"Doing so would negate the freedom to practice one's religion according to one's faith and beliefs. It would amount to rationalising religion, faith and beliefs, which is outside the ken of courts," held the court while dismissing the petition by a woman follower who asserted her right to perform jal abhishek.
"This court is not a theological wizard and shall be transgressing its role as a constitutionist authority by interfering with the essential religious practice, which is certainly not at all opposed to public order, morality, health or any other fundamental right. Resultantly, no case for interference is made out in the matter and the writ petition is accordingly dismissed," it held.