Editorial Analysis || The Sabarimala singularity

• The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments in Indian Young Lawyers
Association v. the State of Kerala.

• It involves rules that prohibit the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

• The right to freedom of religion of both individuals and groups is recognized in a liberal democracy.

• The India Constitution guarantees these in Articles 25 and 26.

• The Article 25 recognizes a right to freedom of conscience and a right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion, subject to exceptions of 
public order.

• Morality

• health and

• The guarantee of other fundamental rights.

What are the Constitutional Provisions?

• Article 25(2)(b) creates a further exception to the right.

• It gives the powers to the state to make laws in the interests of social
welfare and reform.

• This has many times lead to throwing open Hindu religious institutions of the public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.

• Article 26, on the other hand, gives every religious denomination the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes and to manage their own affairs in matters of religion.

• The Supreme court in earlier judgments has upheld laws made under 25(2)(b) as exceptions to the freedom of religion guaranteed by both Articles 25 and 26.

• The Sabarimala temple prohibits women aged between 10 and 50 years from entering the shrine based on Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965.

• The Supreme Court has developed a doctrine for such cases in which the court needs to define what constitutes “essential religious practice”.

• There are arguments that the ban enforced on women from entering the temple does not form part of the core foundation of the denomination.

• On the other hand, the temple authorities claim Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala is a celibate (brahmachari) and so women are forbidden from entering the temple.

• If the court looks beyond the Essential Practices Doctrine the case would become a denial to women not only of their individual rights to freedom of religion but also of equal access to public space.

• This could make difference to people’s civil rights across caste, class, gender and religion.

• The Constitution must be seen as a tool for social revolution instead of the creator of the boundaries between the state and the individual.

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