Sabarimala verdict: Religious practices no-go area for courts, says Justice Indu Malhotra

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Hence, the court should not interfere unless there is an aggrieved person from that religion or section.

He said prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries.

Stating that society needs to undergo a perceptual shift, Misra said "patriarchy in religion can not be permitted to trump over element of pure devotion borne out of faith and the freedom to practise and profess one's religion". It would amount to rationalising religion, faith and beliefs, which is outside the ken of court. "It would open the floodgates to interlopers to question religious beliefs and practices", she warned.

"Religious practices can not exclusively be tested on the basis of the right to equality", said Justice Indu Malhotra, adding that the court should not ordinarily interfere in issues of deep religious sentiments.

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The case was brought forth by a group of five women who claimed the rule violated the fundamental right to equality and protection from discrimination on the ground of gender, India Today reported.

Justice Malhotra said notions of rationality can not be brought into matters of religion and India has diverse religious practices and constitutional morality would allow anyone to profess a religion they believe. The CJI said devotion can not be subjected to discrimination and patriarchal notion can not be allowed to trump equality in devotion.

"The rituals practiced in the temple have existed since before the Constitution".

Elated activists who have been at the forefront of what they call the "Right to Pray" movement said a slew of recent rulings would send the message that "regressive" traditions will not get legal sanction.

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Assertion of the right to equality can be invoked only by persons belonging to matters of same faith, creed or sect, she held. Justice Nariman said the Sabarimala temple custom barring women of 10-50 age is not backed by Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

"The right to enter a temple is not dependent on a legislation".

The practices, including both the restriction and 41-day Vratham (penance) to be observed by a male devotee, are considered to be essential or integral to the temple. The restriction imposed on entry of women in Sabarimala is because of the nature of the deity worshipped there as a "naishtika brahmachari" (celibate) and not because of any discriminatory attitude towards women based on biological factors such as menstruation.

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