The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which runs the historic Sabarimala temple in Kerala, took a U-turn in the Supreme Court on Wednesday by supporting its verdict which had allowed women of all age groups to enter the shrine.
The Board, which also comprise the state government nominees, told a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that it is high time that a particular class not be discriminated on the ground of "biological attributes".
In the forenoon, the Kerala government took the stand that it was in agreement with the September 28 last year verdict and had urged dismissal of petitions seeking review of the verdict.
"Article 25 (1) equally entitles all persons to practice religion," senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for TDB, told the bench which also comprises Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
The Board had earlier vehemently opposed the PIL by Indian Young Lawyers Association saying that the celibate character of Lord Aiyappa at Sabarimala temple was a unique religious feature which was protected under the constitution.
"Women cannot be excluded from any walk of life on biological attributes... equality is the dominant theme of the Constitution", said Dwivedi adding that people should gracefully accept the apex court verdict.
The apex court is hearing a batch of petitions seeking review of the verdict allowing the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala shrine.
On September 28, a five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by the then CJI Dipak Misra, in a 4:1 verdict had paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the shrine, saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination.
Of the four, Bindu and Kanakadurga, aged 44 and 42, were the first to have stepped into the hallowed precincts after the top court's historic judgement lifted the ban on entry of girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine of Lord Ayyappa, its eternally celibate deity.
The other two applicants -- 33-year-old Reshma and 29-year-old Shanila, had twice attempted to enter the temple, first on January 15 and again on January 19. However, they were heckled and prevented by some self-proclaimed devotees after which they had to discontinue.
"There are thousands of women waiting for Darshan at Sabarimala and are awaiting the final outcome of the review petitions when this court would be pleased to hear and finally decide. The applicants may be permitted to intervene and make their submissions before this court when the Review Petitions are heard by this court, in order to oppose the Reviews," said Reshma and Shanila in their application.
Bindu and Kanakadurga, in their application, said, "The judgment of this court on September 28, 2018, upheld the dignity, liberty and equality of women of all ages and sent a strong message to the society against menstrual taboo. Proposed intervenors pray that they may also be heard to oppose the review, in case this court is inclined to review the judgment. It is in the interest of justice that the Proposed Intervenors are heard".