The Supreme Court had recently, in a majority opinion of 4:1 had lifted an age old ban on the prohibition of women from entering the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala. It was a battle between “the right to pray” and “the right to wait” in which, the former won and the Supreme Court held that patriachy cannot trump over the right to freedom guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.
The main opinion shared by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said, “One side we pray to goddesses; on the other, women of a certain age are considered ‘impure’. This dualistic approach is nothing but patriarchy practised in religion. The ban ‘exacts’ more purity from women than men”.
The judges pointed out specifically the hypocrisy of the society wherein on one hand we worship goddesses and on the other hand, women are being considered “impure” so as to render them ineligible to worship a deity. This dualistic approach is nothing but patriarchy practised in religion. In the opinion of Justice Chandrachud, this systematic is prohibition is analogous to untouchability. He said the logic behind the ban was that presence of women deviated men from celibacy. This was placing the burden of a men’s celibacy on women thus, stigmatising women and stereotyping them.
Chief Justice Dipak Mishra opined that the relation with God is a transcendal one. Along with Justice Kganwilkar, he shared the view that the practice being propogated at Sabrimala was essentially a prejudice against women and based on the assumption that the presence of a woman is the source of a man’s morals.
Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the Constitution Bench, dissented from the majority opinion. She held that the determination of what constituted an essential practice in a religion should not be decided by judges on the basis of their personal viewpoints. She held that essentiality of a religious practice or custom had to be decided within the religion. It was a matter of personal faith. India was a land of diverse faiths. Constitutional morality in a pluralistic society gave freedom to practice even irrational or illogical customs and usages.
Written by Shashank Mishra (3rd year)
Image credits – dailypioneer.com