Religion only bar for entry into temples, says Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Monday observed that temples can’t prohibit entry to anyone unless it has constitutional rights. A three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra made these oral observations during the hearing of a PIL challenging the custom at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple prohibiting entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 years.

The bench told senior counsel K.K. Venugopal for Kerala, “Temples can’t prohibit entry except on the basis of religion. Unless you have a constitutional right you can’t prohibit the entry.”

It was submitted on behalf of the temple board that it is an old custom and supported by an order of the Kerala High Court. Kerala sought permission to file an affidavit to support the stand that such a ban on entry was based on custom.
The petition said the practice degrades women and is against the basic tenets of Hindu religion where women are worshipped in the form of goddesses. Such evil practices have generated out of narrow thinking and are not part of the religion.

According to the petitioner Young Lawyers Association, Kerala, the discrimination is a violation of Articles 14 (equality) 15 (prohibition against discrimination)  and 25 (freedom to religion). It contended that the custom restricting entry of women aged between 10 and 50 to the temple was violative of their constitutional rights.

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