NEW DELHI: Countering the challenges to the ban on the entry of women to the Sabarimala temple, the petitioners on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that Constitution can come into the picture if the tradition is cruel in any manner, but these are customary practices that have prevailed in a family for generations.
Advocate V K Biju, appearing for social activist Rahul Easwar told the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that only women of a certain age group are restricted and that the constant flip-flops by the state government has rendered its affidavits unreliable in the case. He referred to the inclusive and secular nature of the Sabarimala temple, placing emphasis on the importance of the worship offered by Ayyappa devotees at the Vavar Dargah and to a tribal deity in the premises before they proceed to the main temple.
"This is a tantric temple and not a vedic temple. It has its uniqueness. Ninety per cent of the devotees go to Vavar mosque first then go to Ayyappa temple which shows its secular nature. It is the right of the deity to continue as it is," Biju added. He also pointed out that the temple receives over Rs 300 crore as contribution from devotees and only Rs 8 lakh from the state, yet the petitioner, in this case, wants the temple to be treated as a state institution.
Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who also appeared as intervenor, raised a question as to whether the Sabarimala temple falls within the definition of 'public place of worship' in accordance with the 1965 Act. He said that in the context of the unique nature and history of the Sabarimala temple, a narrow definition of a religious denomination may not do justice and that those devotees with faith in the Sabarimala temple and its practices would qualify as a religious denomination as per Article 26 of the Constitution.
"Sabrimala Ayyappa devotees form a separate denomination as they have to undertake the 41-day penance which is unique to the temple," said Shankarnarayan adding that the intent of the rule was not to keep women out of temple. To this, the CJI responded, "But the impact is that."
The hearing remained inconclusive and will continue on Wednesday.