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Plea in SC for gender-equal bench to hear Sabarimala matter

Plea in SC for gender-equal bench to hear Sabarimala matter

A fresh plea was today moved in the Supreme Court seeking setting up of a constitution bench with half of the bench being women judges or a special jury with eminent personalities to hear the case relating to women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

The plea, filed by S Parameswaran Nampoothiri who is also a party in the ongoing matter in the apex court, said “only women can understand and feel better” on the issues pending before the apex court.

It also referred to the fact that since 1950, only six woman judges have been appointed in the apex court and the instant matter relating to women, should be referred to a bench comprising 50 per cent of women judges or be sent to a special jury.

The petition, while seeking to constitute a “jury” as an alternative to handle the PILs, also claimed that there was a “judicial emergency” due to delay in disposal of cases.

The apex court had on October 13 referred to a constitution bench the contentious issue relating to the ban on entry of women between 10 to 50 years of age in Kerala’s historic hill-top shrine Sabarimala Temple.

“Pass an order referring the above mentioned writ petition to a constitution bench of this court in which at least 50 per cent of the Judges are women.

“Or in the alternative, refer the matter to a specially constituted jury consisting of people of eminence like retired judges of this court or the High Courts, historians, writers, etc. with a direction to take a decision in a particular time frame,” the plea, filed through advocate Wills Mathews, said.

It also sought introduction of Jury system in India to deal with PILs to save time of the constitutional courts.

“If we look at the present scenario of pendency of cases, the delay in disposal of cases, there exists a situation to declare ‘Judicial Emergency’, though in the Constitution there is no provision for it,” the petition said.

The plea filed by the 85-year-old petitioner also said that religious practices, customs, usage and spirituality are not free from the test of constitutional validity.

The management of the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Pathanamthitta district, had earlier told the apex court that the ban on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years was because they cannot maintain “purity” on account of menstruation.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra have framed five “significant” questions to be dealt with by the constitution bench, including whether the practice of banning entry of women in the temple amounted to discrimination and violated their fundamental rights.

The court was hearing the petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association and others seeking to ensure entry of female devotees between the age group of 10 to 50 at the Lord Ayappa Temple at Sabarimala.

On November 7 last year, the Kerala government had informed the apex court that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the historic Sabarimala temple.

Earlier a similar progressive stand was taken by the Left Democratic Front government in 2007 favouring women’s entry into the temple, which was overturned by the Congress-led United Democratic Front dispensation later.

The UDF government had taken a view that it was against the entry of women of the age group of 10-to-50 years as such a practice was being followed since time immemorial.

( Source – PTI )

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