New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay its verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple but agreed to hear in open court on January 22 a batch of review petitions in the matter.
The review petitions against the September 28 verdict were taken up 'in-chamber' by a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
"All the Review Petitions along with all pending applications will be heard in Open Court on 22nd January, 2019 before the appropriate Bench. We make it clear that there is no stay of the judgment and order of this Court dated 28th September, 2018 passed in Writ Petition (Civil) No.373 of 2006 (Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. vs. The State of Kerala & Ors)," the order said.
In the in-chamber proceedings, the judges examine the review petitions by circulation and lawyers are not present. There are around 48 petitions seeking review of the judgement.
Soon after the order, gender rights activist Trupti Desai said she will make the trek to the hill shrine any time after November 16, when the temple opens for the main pilgrimage season. The Pinarayi Vijayan government has said there will be no change in its stance as the top court has not stayed women’s entry.
The decision was welcomed by the BJP, whose state president PS Sreedharan Pillai described it as a "good step". "We accept the spirit of today's Supreme Court decision", he said. BJP’s ideological mentor RSS however warned there would be more protests if anyone tries to “break the rituals”.
Sabarimala temple’s head priest Thantri Kandararu Rajeevaru also welcomed Supreme Court's decision saying, “it is a big victory, this is Ayyappa's victory.”
"The blessings of Lord Ayyappa and prayers of lots of devotees are behind this decision to hear the matter in the open court", a beaming Thantri told reporters. “We believe things will become normal now,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the top court had made it clear that fresh pleas related to the Sabarimala Temple will be heard only after it decides the earlier petitions seeking review of the judgment allowing entry of women of all age groups into the shrine in Kerala.
The bench stated this while hearing the three fresh petitions filed by G Vijaya Kumar, S Jaya Rajkumar and Shailaja Vijayan challenging its September 28 verdict.
On September 28, a five-judge constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict, had paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala Temple saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination.
The top court had on October 9 declined an urgent hearing on the review plea filed by an association which had contended that the five-judge Constitution bench's verdict lifting the ban was "absolutely untenable and irrational".
A plea filed by the National Ayyappa Devotees Association (NADA), which has sought review of the verdict, had said: "The notion that the judgment under review is revolutionary, one which removes the stigma or the concept of dirt or pollution associated with menstruation, is unfounded.
"It is a judgment welcomed by hypocrites who were aspiring for media headlines. On the merits of the case, as well, the said judgment is absolutely untenable and irrational, if not perverse."
Besides the association, several other petitions, including one by the Nair Service Society (NSS), have been filed against the apex court verdict.
The NSS had said in the plea that as the deity is a 'Naistika Brahmachari', females below the age of 10 and after the age of 50 years are eligible to worship him and there is no practice of excluding worship by females.
"Hence, the delay or wait for 40 years to worship cannot be considered as exclusionary and it is an error of law on the face of the judgement," the plea had said.