Sabarimala entry: Kerala HC dismisses 10-yr-old girl’s plea

A division bench dismissed the plea of the girl stating that since the matter is pending before the Supreme Court, the petitioner cannot invoke writ jurisdiction of the High Court.
File Photo of Sabarimala Protests.
File Photo of Sabarimala Protests. (BP Deepu | EPS)

KOCHI : The Travancore Devaswom Board has opposed the plea of a 10-year-old girl seeking permission for a pilgrimage to Sabarimala. The Board stated: “The reliefs sought in the petition are exactly one of the main issues considered by the Supreme Court in Kantararu Rajeevaru Vs Indian Young Lawyers Association. Since the crux of the matter involved in this case is pending consideration of the larger bench of the apex court, which has reframed the issues, it is not proper on the part of the board to have a say either way. The petitioner has to wait till the apex court decides the issue finally.” As per the tradition, women aged between 10 and 50 years are not permitted to visit Sabarimala. A division bench dismissed the plea of the girl stating that since the matter is pending before the Supreme Court, the petitioner cannot invoke writ jurisdiction of the High Court.

The bench comprising Justice Anil K Narendran and Justice Harisankar V Menon issued the order on a petition filed by 10-year-old Snigdha Sreenath, of Bengaluru North, Karnataka. The petitioner sought permission to visit Sabarimala, without insisting on upper age qualification, a declaration that the petitioner is entitled to have a pilgrimage to Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple during mandala pooja-makaravilakku season. She claimed that she had not attained puberty. Therefore, there is no bar on her to have a pilgrimage to Sabarimala as of now.

As per the Aadhaar card, the date of birth of the petitioner is June 5, 2013. The petition was filed on November 27, 2023, and finally heard on April 5. The court delivered the judgment in June. According to the petitioner, her pilgrimage was delayed on account of the pandemic, the resultant financial difficulties and also the poor health of her father. Though her father had made an application for pilgrimage online, it was rejected for the reason that the petitioner had crossed the upper age limit of 10. Her father made a representation dated November 22, 2023, before the Travancore Devaswom Board seeking permission for pilgrimage.

The board submitted that the writ petition is to permit the petitioner to have a pilgrimage to Sabarimala during the mandalam-makaravilakku festival season, which is over now and the writ petition has become infructuous.

The petitioner amended the petition seeking to have a pilgrimage during monthly pooja days. She stated that there may not be much rush or crowd in and around the temple since the mandala-makaravilakku festival season is over. Therefore, it would be more congenial and convenient for girl children like the petitioner to have pilgrimage during the monthly pooja.

The petitioner contended that she is entitled to have a pilgrimage to the temple during the forthcoming monthly pooja without insisting on an upper age limit since she has not attained puberty. The petitioner also cited a High Court order in S Mahendran’s case that the custom prevailing in Sabarimala from time immemorial is that girl children who have not attained puberty are permitted to have pilgrimage to Sabarimala. The upper age limit of 10 is fixed only for the sake of convenience.

While dismissing the plea of the girl, the bench said that the board, being a trustee in the management of devaswom properties, is legally bound to perform its duties with utmost care and caution.

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