A 5-member Constitution bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Nariman, Justice Khanwilkar, Justice Chandrachud, and Justice Malhotra on November 14 referred the Sabarimala review pleas to a 7-member larger bench by a 3:2 verdict. Reacting to the verdict, senior CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat stated that his party stands for women being given equal rights in all the "spheres of society."
Karat further stated that, “The Supreme Court has decided after the review petitions were heard to refer the matter to a larger bench. Since this is a matter still before the judiciary, we can only wait for the outcome of that larger bench decision. But as far our party is concerned, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) we stand for equal rights for women in all spheres of society. We stand by that, but now-Supreme Court has to give the final verdict, we have to wait for that."
The Chief Justice of India contended that it was time that the SC evolved a judicial policy to do justice to constitutional principles. The CJI mentioned that in a legal framework, the courts should tread carefully with issues regarding religious practices. Noting that the endeavour of the petitioner was to revive the debate on what constitutes an integral part of religion, the CJI questioned whether a constitutional court could interfere in the matters of faith. On the other hand, the dissenting judgment by Justice Nariman and Justice Chandrachud stated that the issue before the bench was not that of Muslim women or Parsi women. While admitting that bonafide criticism of the judgement was permissible, Justice Nariman made it clear that thwarting the orders of the court could not be countenanced.
On September 28, 2018, the SC lifted the ban on entry of women belonging to all age groups in the Sabarimala temple. This sparked off huge 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.