In the Indian setting, traditions and practices have always been a crucial and fundamental component of every religious and cultural sect. Different customary behaviours from diverse religions have long been present. Some of these customs are valued so highly that individuals are even willing to lose their lives in order to uphold them. The temple at Sabarimala is devoted to Lord Ayyappa, a mythical warrior and Lord Sastha’s avatar. It is located inside the Sabarimala region of the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Pathanamthitta district, Kerela. The Travancore Devaswom Board is in charge of running the Sabarimala temple. Many individuals who are dedicated to this temple believe that before visiting Sabarimala, one must perform penance for 41 days, which involves humble living, pious thinking, and complete celibacy for at least 41 days. This deity is supposed to be a “nastikaBrahmachari,” which means “perpetual celibacy,” and hence a sign of holiness that menstruation women should not “violate.” Lord Ayyappan’s followers consider it vital religious practice, and any breach would result in a violation of spiritual advancement. Even though Ayyappans worship a god who is compassionate towards all his worshipers, there is still prejudice at Sabarimala since it is believed that menstrual women are unclean. The Sabarimala Temple is controversial due to its policy of excluding women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the temple since they are of menstruation age and are deemed ‘unclean’ or ‘impure,’ and their mere presence would ‘desecrate the deity’s holiness.’
THE JUDICIAL HISTORY OF THE SABARIMALA TEMPLE
The judicial system that exists today in the contemporary, democratic state, upholds the rule of law and, on occasion, fills in the gaps in legislative policy that were unintentionally overlooked or were the result of volatility. However, in a nation as strongly devoted to religion as India, it has always been controversial for constitutional court justices to render judgments on questions of faith. On account of S. Mahendran v. The Secretary, Travancore Devaswom Board, Thiruvananthapuram, and others, the subject of restriction on women’s entry into the temple was tended to under the Kerela High Court in the year 1991.  The division bench belonging to the Kerala High Court decided for the respondents and provided a request expressing that the limitations have existed since old times and that the Travancore Board’s disallowance doesn’t go against the Indian Constitution or the material Kerala Law of 1965.
A group of five female advocates, The Indian Young Lawyers Association, challenged the sanctuary authorities’ exceptionally old customary practice under the watchful eye of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). It was argued that Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965, which states: “Women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship”is a breach of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The decision in The Sabarimala Temple Case, reported quite a while back, is currently the subject of a spate of survey petitions and has been alluded to a seven-judge Constitution Bench by the Supreme Court in KantaruRajeevaru v. Indian Young Lawyers Association and Ors. There had always been outrage when the courts sought to meddle with and ban established traditions. This commotion, however, should not prevent the courts from settling the problem. The judiciary has a responsibility to dispense justice irrespective of who opposes the verdict
THE SUPREME COURT’S VERDICT
The request to admit women of all ages into the temple was approved by a constitutional bench of five judges by a vote of four to one. The result of the investigation revealed that the method in question was discriminatory and violated Hindu women’s freedom to worship and exercise any religion. It was also decided that those who worship Lord Ayyappa do not represent a distinctive religious group; as a result, they don’t possess the right to impose their religious beliefs on others, and nobody is or shall be under any compulsion to adhere to the same. This was another decision that came about as a result of the previous one. The Supreme Court ruled that the 1965 Kerala Hindu Places of Worship Rules, which allowed the restriction, were unconstitutional. In spite of any customs or traditions to the contrary, Section 3 specifically says that all places of public worship, including those for women, must be accessible to all. This exception is created in the regulations and rules that were enacted under Section 4(1). According to the Supreme Court, the language of both articles makes it clear that tradition and practice must respect the right of all Hindu subgroups and subsects to offer prayers in open places of worship. In line with Section 25(1) of the Indian Constitution, any ruling to the contrary would nullify these women’s basic right to profess their religion. Justice Indu Malhotra, the sole female member of the Constitutional Bench, wrote a dissenting opinion, which is notable. The concerns of faith, she said, are beyond the scope of logic. She continued, explaining that Article 25 of the Constitution protects both the shrine and God and that it is not the role of the court to decide whether religious ceremonies should be forbidden, save in circumstances of social ills like Sati. While she acknowledged that devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious sect, she disagreed with the idea of lifting the ban on women’s public participation in religious services. According to the court, religious independence cannot be retained as a component of religious patriarchy, and biological disparities cannot prevent women from worshipping God because such differences impede society’s functioning. The majority verdict in favour of women not only linked religion to dignity but also highlighted the actual nature of divinity and how Society should be subjected to social reforms and the removal of such prevalent in societal activities.
The main focus of the entire case is the prohibition on women entering the temple, which violated their fundamental rights as stated above, and how the judges handled the issues touching the fundamental moral and constitutional values that no one should be forced to compromise their dignity and freedom in order to uphold their freedom of religion or devotion. The Sabarimala judgment is a milestone crossroads throughout the entire existence of governmental policy regarding minorities in society, making everything go smoothly in social coordination and restoring women’s activist law. This choice offers the legal thought on the state of the upward interface between the State and its subjects. Thus, it keeps up with what the Constitution perceives, however, doesn’t make privileges under Part III. These privileges are intrinsic, holy, and important for established uprightness. Everybody has the right to free expression, according to Article 25 of the Constitution. Additionally, it enables the state to enforce harsh practice restrictions in order to promote change. This might include offering public Hindu rigid affiliations to all social groups and divisions. The Sabarimala decision is a powerful and outspoken statement. The Supreme Court has adopted a liberal and proactive strategy by safeguarding fundamental humankind and the equivalent opportunity to ‘love’, for all individuals. This elevating choice has escalated the noose around what was before handily taken off as a “fundamental strict practice” and contrived a test to characterize the legitimacy of such cases, restricting the degree of segregation in any capacity, rehearsed under the improperly surmised assents of religion.
Established freedoms ought not to be restricted by cultural principles or well-known ethical qualities. The court should give the fundamental force to work as a social change specialist; this stimulus makes everything go smoothly for development and social reasonableness. An official punishment ought not to be utilised to force a greater part of ethical quality. If everything else is equal, the current judicial judgments ought to steer us in the right direction, providing justification for naturally occurring disparities and eliminating a legal niche for enhancing human autonomy, with a particular emphasis on the rights of women. At the point when we, the residents of India, laid out the Constitution, we sought to liberate ourselves from the harsh requirements of disparity, unfairness, and cultural orders, that advance imbalance and bias. It is very surprising that we have needed to stand by 70 years after our autonomy to give value to half of the nation’s populace.
Author(s) Name: Kritika (Symbiosis Law School, Noida)
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