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It will be against Sabarimala tradition, Supreme Court told

Legal Correspondent

Board defends restricting entry of women


  • Board has a duty to enforce usage in the temple
  • Not violative of Articles 15, 25 and 26

    New Delhi: The Travancore Devaswom Board has informed the Supreme Court that allowing entry of women to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple without any age restriction is against religious beliefs and customs practised for several years. At present women devotees between the age group of 10 to 50 are not allowed entry.

    The Board was responding to the notice issued by the court on a petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association and five other women advocates challenging the ban. The petitioners had contended that discrimination in matters of entry to temples was neither a ritual nor a ceremony associated with Hindu religion.

    In its counter the Board said, ``worshippers visit the temple only after observing penance for 41 days. Usually women between the age of 10 and 50 will not be physically capable of observing `vratham' for 41 days on physiological grounds. The rule, that during these seasons no women aged more than 10 and less than 50 shall enter the temple is scrupulously followed and the Board, being a Statutory Authority, cannot forget the mandate laid down under Article 15, 25 and 26 of the Constitution while administering the temples under their control."

    The Board said ``Ayyappa devotees form a denomination by themselves, and have every right to regulate and manage their own affairs in matters of religion. The restriction imposed on women of a particular age group from entering the temple is a matter of religion and a matter of religious faith. If the tenets of religion lay down that certain ceremonies are to be performed at certain times in a particular manner, those ceremonies are matters of religion and are to be enforced as a religious belief."

    ``The Board has a statutory duty to enforce the usage prevalent in the temple. The Board has no right to alter or modify the same. If the wish of Lord Ayyappa as revealed in the Devaprasnam conducted at the temple is to prohibit women of a particular age group from worshipping, the same has to be honoured and followed by the worshippers and the temple authorities. The Board has a duty to implement the astrological findings and prediction on Devaprasnam. The Board has therefore no power to act against that report which will virtually disregard the wishes of the deity revealed in the prasnam."

    Seeking dismissal of the petition, the counter said, ``such restriction imposed by the Board is not violative of Articles 15, 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Such restriction is also not violative of the provisions of the Hindu Place of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965 since there is no restriction between one section and another section or between one class among the Hindus in the matter of entry to a temple whereas the prohibition is only in respect of women of a particular age group and not women as a class."

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