Are religious beliefs, customs above constitutional norms, asks SC

New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked if religious beliefs and customs were above constitutional norms as it questioned how a women between the age group of 10 to 50 years could be denied entry into the Sabarimala temple.

The bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice Kurian Joseph in a poser to the Devaswom Board asked: “Whatever grounds you make take a, b, c, d… can a woman be denied entry in the temple. Will it stand a constitutional test?”

The poser from the bench came as senior counsel Indira Jaising, appearing for a group of young girls, told the court that women between the age of 10 to 50 years were being told that their presence may disturb the state of mind of the deity which is in the state of celibacy.

“I am being blamed for his state of mind. It is a deity and not a human being,” Jaising told the court pointing out that she was not seeking access to the sanctum sanctorum.

“You are putting the onus of disturbing the celibacy of the deity on women. If they are truly celibate, then why would they be disturbed,” Jaising asked the Devaswom Board.

Taking note of the argument by Jaising, the court asked: “Assuming you are correct, can physiological factors be a guiding factor to deny entry to women in the Sabarimala temple?

“Who can disturb whom is not an issue. You may have a, b, c, d… grounds. Can a woman be denied entry into the temple?”

The court’s posers came in the course of the hearing of a plea by Indian Young Lawyers Association and others questioning the ban on the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years in the Sabarimala temple.

Referring to an earlier judgment of the apex court, Jaising said: “If you want the custom to be accepted, then it should be proved, it has to be constitutional and reasonable.”

Pointing to the importance of constitutional provisions, Jaising said one may say that “I don’t believe in equality but constitution compels you to practice equality”.

Seeking to place before the court the Devaswom Board’s views before others could argue, counsel K.K. Venugopal — appearing for the Devaswom Board that manages the Sabarimala temple — said that whatever the temple trust was doing was within the four walls of the Constitution.

He said “let the Devaswom Board present its view first, thereafter those disagreeing with may argue and demolish it (arguments)”.

The hearing will continue on April 18.

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