One of our essential rights, granted by Article 25 of the Indian constitution, is the freedom of conscience and the ability to freely profess, practise, and propagate religion. This article of the Indian constitution guarantees religious freedom to all Indian citizens, as well as the following rights:
- to create and maintain religious and charitable institutions
- to govern its religious affairs to own and acquire moveable and immovable property;
- to administer such property according to the law
However, in recent days, judicial meddling has greatly harmed religious freedom, resulting in a slew of lawsuits and posing a new challenge to the judiciary, namely, how far is it correct to apply the judicial mind and constitutional adjudication in the matter of religion by the courts?
Women between the ages of 10 and 50 were barred from entering the temple by the Kerala High Court in 1991. The High Court stated in its decision that the prohibition on women entering the temple has existed from the beginning of time and that in the past, only the priests had the authority to judge on questions of tradition.
Following this, a group of lawyers challenged the prohibition, claiming that it violated the principles of the right to equality, limited religious freedom, and was discriminatory.
After the Indian Young Lawyers Association filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in 2016, the matter reached the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court issued the much-debated ruling in 2018 that abolished the restriction on women entering the Sabarimala Shrine. Women of all ages were allowed to enter the temple, according to the court. The bench decided that the practice of the temple violates Hindu women’s rights and fosters gender discrimination in its decision, which was handed by a majority of 4:1.
WHAT’S THE TEMPLE STANCE ON THE ISSUE?
The temple management in Travancore argued in court that they had every right to set rules for the temple without intervention from the state and that this right existed since Ayyappa swami’s followers form a denomination with a definite recognisable number. They went on to say that the practice in Sabarimala was not discriminatory in any way.
Women devotees ran a campaign called #Readytowait at the same time. They highlighted that only women of a specific age were forbidden from entering the temple, thus waiting until you are 50 years old is acceptable. Furthermore, they said that the petitioners were conflating Hinduism’s diversity with discrimination.
RIGHTS INFRINGEMENT OF WOMEN’S
Keeping women out of places of worship like Sabarimala’s temple would be a violation of Articles 14, 15, 19, and 25 of the Indian Constitution. These articles discuss the right to equality, the right to be free from discrimination based on gender, the right to free movement, and the right to freedom of religion.
Restricting women’s access to religious shrines is one of the various methods of enforcing partiality, and these limitations are usually founded on patriarchy rather than religion.
The women who were denied entrance to the inner sanctum sanatorium alleged that this was a breach of their fundamental right to worship, which is granted to all citizens under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.
OBSERVATIONS BY SUPREME COURT
During the hearing, the Supreme Court stated that “what pertains to a man also applies to a woman” and that “once it’s open to the public, anyone can come.” A woman’s right to pray, the bench added, “is not reliant on any law, but it is a constitutional right.”
“As a woman, your right to pray is equivalent to that of a man, and it is not dependent on legislation to enable you to do so,” Justice D Y Chandrachud said. “Menstruation is not impure,” Justice Nariman had said.
The Sabarimala case provides a good chance for Indian courts to revisit and assess long-standing traditions of discrimination against particular groups of people. The court would have to consider more than merely the deprivation of women’s freedom of worship, taking into account the devotees’ faith in the Sabarimala god.
This will also serve as a platform for a radical re-reading of the constitution. At the same time, it is critical for India’s court to devise a technique for dealing with cases like Sabarimala in order to prevent violence from erupting as a result of such judicial decisions.