On Monday, the nine-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, while hearing the Sabarimala review petition said that it would not hear the specific case in relation to alleged discrimination against women on religious grounds, but would address the larger issues. The court directed the lawyers appearing for multiple similar cases to decide amongst themselves what all cases they want the apex court to hear.
What apex court said?
While hearing the petition Justice Bobde said the court would not decide the Sabrimala review, he said, “We are not hearing the review petition—only sticking to the larger issues.” The court also directed that the lawyers meeting will be attended by the Supreme Court secretary-general and will be held on Friday. Justice Bobde also suggested that the lawyers meet should discuss three main issues: framing and modification of the matters, division of time on each issue and allocation of issues between the lawyers.
What is the ‘larger issue’?
On 14th November 2019, a five-judge bench of the apex court while examining cases pertaining to several religious issues allegedly on the grounds of them being discriminatory such as women’s entry into mosques, Subrimala and other places of worship, ritual of female genital mutilation done in the Dawoodi Bohra community, etc. referred the case to a larger bench to examine such multiple issues. It was the same bench that removed the ban of women of certain ages to enter Sabarimala temple.
What the Constitution of India says?
Article 25 and Articles 26 of the Indian constitution gives the fundamental right to freedom of Religion. The former confers the fundamental right to all persons to profess the religion of choice while the latter gives the fundamental right to manage religious affairs. The nine-judge bench will examine these twin articles of the constitution to the interpretation of the following concepts:
- ‘Morality’ or ‘constitutional morality.’
- ‘Sections of Hindus’
- ‘Public order, morality and health.’
The court will also decide whether ‘essential religious practises’ for any religious community is protected under Article 26 and to what extent do the courts of law have the power to hear litigation in the matters of religious practices.
The Sabarimala Case
In September 2018, a five judged bench of the Supreme Court overturned the Kerala High Court verdict banning entry of women lying between the menstruating age group (from 10 to 50) in the Sabarimala Temple. The apex court, in its judgement, allowed the entry of all the women regardless of any age group into the Temple. The court upheld that any social custom that places an exception on women on the grounds of biological differences violates the constitution. The court held that the social tradition infringes individual rights conferred under Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
The aftermath of the Sabarimala Case
A large section of the society welcomed the judgement wholeheartedly while the other protested. Moreover, the judgement resulted in the filing of several petitions in the Supreme Court challenging several practices across the religions, allegedly on the ground of them being unconstitutional. While hearing the review petition on Sabarimala case, the court order to hear ‘larger issues’ than the specific ones.