The Supreme Court on February 3rd, 2020 decided to determine the larger issue of faith versus rights by framing questions that have arisen following its judgement on November 14th, 2019 on review petitions against its 2018 ruling that allowed women of all age groups to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.
A nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said they would discuss and decide among themselves the legal questions and fix the date of hearing on February 6th, 2020.
The top court took into considerations preliminary objections raised by senior advocate F S Nariman and Shyam Divan, who said there cannot be a reference order to a larger bench in petitions seeking review of a judgement.
They said the Sabarimala judgement was passed on September 28th, 2018, by a five-judge bench. When review petitions were filed against it, the five-judge bench, instead of deciding it, made a reference to a larger bench, going beyond its jurisdiction.
Their contention was opposed by other counsel, namely senior advocates K Parasaran and A M Singhvi and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, among others. They said in PILs, the court had exercised such jurisdiction to make a reference.
To this, the bench said it would also decide whether reference order can be made under the review jurisdiction.
On November 14th, 2019, a five-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said by a majority view of 3:2 that it was essential to adhere to “judicial discipline and propriety”. Since more than one petition was pending on the same, similar or overlapping issues, all cases must proceed together, they said.
Similar questions related to Muslim women’s right to enter ‘dargah’ and mosque, and permission to Parsi women, married to a non-Parsi, to visit the holy fireplace of an ‘Agyari’ and practice of female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohar community would require authoritative determinations, along with the right of all age women to enter Lord Ayappa’s temple at Sabarimala, it had said.
The five-judge had on September 28th, 2018, opened the doors of famous Lord Ayappa’s temple for all women particularly of between 10-50 years of age, who were, till then, prohibited on the ground that menstruating women were not pure.