SC refers Sabari case to larger bench

The uncertainty over the entry of women of all ages to the hilltop shrine of Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala is likely to continue this season as the Supreme Court referred the Sabarimala review petitions to a 7-judge bench by 3:2 majority.

The apex court said the seven-judge bench will also look into similar pending questions like Muslim women's right to enter a mosque and permission to Parsi women who marry outside the community to enter its fire temple and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra noted that the issue whether the court can interfere in essential practices of religion needed examination by a larger bench. Justices Chandrachud and Nariman dissented, sources said.

The court in its majority judgment concurred that the right to worship by an individual in a temple “cannot outweigh the rights of a section of the religious group to which one may belong”.

It is understood that there is no stay of the September 28, 2018 judgment which allowed entry of women of all ages in the temple. Which would apparently mean that there is no bar on young women entering the temple this season.

Leaders of opposition parties including Ramesh Chennithala (Congress) and Kummanam Rajasekharan (BJP) urged the LDF government to respect the sentiments of the devotees.

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