The entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala will continue with the Supreme Court on Thursday deciding to set up a larger bench to reexamine religious issues including those arising out of its earlier verdict that lifted a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age visiting the hilltop shrine. Reacting over the same, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid asked people to have faith in the Supreme Court.
He said, "I think if we have faith in the SC, and we believe that ultimate avatar of what is acceptable, desirable in our society, then we must let the SC do all this. There are many who think the SC cannot decide on religious issues, I think now it is more than clear, that the SC does delve into theology and religious thoughts to decide what are the core areas of religion and what are not the core areas. In core areas, it holds itself back. Even very profound judges can disagree where to draw the line. I think we will be better off trusting the court. This is not to say that the Courts are infallible, whenever the Courts get something wrong, another generation of judges has the right and the duty to listen to it and change the mind and law. I hope everybody will be happy.
Speaking over Supreme Court's pronouncement that a seven-judge bench will look into pending questions similar to Sabarimala related to Muslim women's right to enter a mosque and permission to Parsi women who marry outside the community to enter its fire temple and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community, Salman Khurshid said, "I'm not sure you can jump from one thing to another. I have been to the most sacred places as far as Islam is concerned. I have never found any labels or boards there saying 'women are not allowed.' There is no distinction. But there are very strong views in our own country that you should not mix, that you should be separate."
"But there are many places where they do. This is not unusual for India, we all know that Bishop had to be a man, but it's changing now. Women are becoming priests, and they would go up the ladder one day to head whatever institutions they belong to. The same thing happened in the Armed Forces, women were not in the fighter arms, but now we have women piloting fighter aircraft. The world is changing. It's for everybody, not for one religion alone. What are the areas in which the Constitution and our understanding of Constitution should prevail, and what are the ideas that we must leave alone for religion because it's not hurting anyone, maybe, unless you establish that it is hurting anyone," he added.
The original verdict of the SC sparked off protests across Kerala. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) which manages the shrine, argued that the SC could not interfere with a century-old belief. The ban on entry of women has been justified on the grounds that Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity is celibate. On the other hand, the government of Kerala supported the verdict maintaining that religious practices that clashed with fundamental rights could be set aside. After hearing the review petition filed by the TDB, Pandalam Royal Family and a group of devotees, the Constitution bench had reserved its verdict on February 5.