A 5-member Constitution bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Nariman, Justice Khanwilkar, Justice Chandrachud, and Justice Malhotra on Thursday referred the Sabarimala review pleas to a 7-member larger bench by a 3:2 verdict. Justice Chandrachud and Justice Nariman have dissented from the majority judgment. Furthermore, while delivering its verdict, the apex court clubbed the entry of women in mosques and the tower of silence, the legality of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community along with the Sabarimala issue. However, in light of no contrary orders from the Supreme Court, the petitions have been kept pending and there will not be a stay on the earlier judgment which allowed the entry of women between the age group of 10 to 50 years in Sabarimala temple, Kerala.
The CJI contended that it was time that the SC evolved a judicial policy to do justice to constitutional principles. He 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.