New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Kerala government to stay clear of the controversy surrounding women's entry into the Sabarimala hill shrine while framing an exclusive law to administer it.
A three-judge bench, led by Justice NV Ramana, pointed out that issues relating to the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 have been referred to a seven-judge bench and, thus, it should be avoided for the time being.
The occasion for the bench to cite the recent Sabarimala judgment arose when it went through a draft legislation presented by the state government. The Kerala government in the draft had reserved one-third of the posts for women in the temple advisory committee of what it called the 'Travancore-Cochin Religious Institutions Act'.
At this, Justices Ramana and Reddy asked the state government how there could be women in the committee when the seven-judge bench is still examining various issues relating to essential religious practices that have a direct bearing on the Sabarimala case.
The judges said women in the committee will be required to enter the temple premises and, hence, the views of the larger bench would have implications.
Senior lawyer Jaideep Gupta, representing the Kerala government, said the state would include women only above 50 years of age if the seven-judge bench rules against allowing women of all ages into the temple.
Gupta said the decision was taken to include women as part of the state's liberal push. He agreed to submit a fresh draft of the legislation to solely manage the temple by third week of January 2020.
At this point, Justice BR Gavai, also a part of the bench, sought to know about the factual and legal position regarding women’s entry.
While Gupta cited the previous restrictions on women in the age group of 10 and 50, Justice Gavai said, "But as of now anybody can enter… right? As of now, the September 2018 judgment revoking prohibition on entry of women is what holds the field."
The observations by the judge, however, did not evoke any response from the state governments' lawyer or any other judge on the bench.
Last week, a five-judge bench, by 3:2 majority, favoured a re-look at its judgment in the case as it also expanded the scope of the matter by opting to examine similar practices among Muslims and Parsis. The matter was then referred to a larger bench.