In a fresh hearing on Sabarimala temple case on February 20, the Supreme Court has reserved its order on whether this case—ban on entry of menstruating women in the temple—would be transferred to a Constitutional bench or not. The apex court is hearing a PIL seeking entry of women in the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Interestingly, a total of ten Supreme Court judges has already heard the case over the years.

The petition was filed by the India Young Lawyers’ Association (IYLA).

A petition was filed against the restriction on women aged between 10–50 from entering the Sabarimala temple by a devotee of Lord Ayyapa in 1990 in the Kerala High Court on grounds that Lord Ayyapa, whose idol was housed in such temple, was a single god. Therefore, women between the ages of 10–50 shall be restricted from entry to prevent any deviation of the idol from singlehood.

In response to such PIL, the Kerala High Court in 1991 had issued directions to the Travancore Devaswom Board,—the managing board of the Sabarimala Temple—to ensure that women between the ages of 10-50 years are prohibited from entering the temple at all times of the year.

The root cause

The ban on ‘menstruating women’ was enforced under Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules 1965, which states that “women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship”.