Bombay HC slams Maharashtra Government on temple entry

The Bombay high court slammed the Maharashtra government for not implementing its own law to stop those preventing the entry of women inside Hindu temples throughout the state. “You must be conscious of your responsibility of protecting women wherever they are trying to enter a temple,“ said a bench of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice M S Sonak. It has asked the government to make a statement on Friday if it will issue a circular to the police and all district collectors to implement the Maharashtra Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956.
The bench heard a public interest litigation filed last month by Vidya Bal (70) and Neelima Vartak (64), votaries of gender equality , highlighting the “discriminatory treatment“ against women in various temples of Maharashtra.
They gave the example of Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district. Vartak, a practising advocate, experienced discrimination there first hand. The judges said wherever women are not allowed inside temples, the police officer and collector will have to take their complaints. The state will have to file cases for contravention of Section 3 of the Act, which says no Hindu of whatsoever section or class shall in any manner be prevented from entering such place of public worship or from worshipping or offering prayers as any other Hindu. “He may be a trustee, pujari, ordinary person or a fanatic. You understand?“ asked Justice Waghela.
The petitioners' advocate Kalyani Tulankar explained that the Ahmednagar shrine is on an open platform and women were completely prohibited. She said the trustees have now disallowed men as an outwardly show. Tulankar informed on January 26 the activists of Kolhapur's Bhumata Brigade tried to storm the temple. The district collector, instead of implementing the Act, had clamped Section 144 (prohibition of assembly) of the Criminal Procedure Code, making it impossible to take darshan, she added.
They also said the offering of worship has to be made before the deity and not outside the temple. They added that if it is a private temple, it is another case. When Vagyani said women want to enter inner sanctum of Shani Shignapur, Justice Waghela said, “If men are allowed on the platform then women will also be allowed. If men are not allowed, women also will not be allowed.“ Justice Sonak added, “This is your own law.You are obliged to enforce it.“
The judges then enquired if the state will issue a circular to the authorities to implement the Act. “Women don't have to come to High Court for that,“ said Justice Waghela.
Posting the hearing on Friday , the judges declined Vagyani's request to give more time to take instructions from higher officials.“Everyday you are violating (the law). Higher officials will give you instructions dehors (without) the law?“ asked Justice Waghela.

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