Supreme Court Refers Sabarimala Verdict Review Petitions To Larger Bench
Congress-led UDF members stage a protest against Supreme Court’s Sabarimala verdict, at Erumely in Kottayam. (Photo: PTI)

Supreme Court Refers Sabarimala Verdict Review Petitions To Larger Bench

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The Supreme Court on Thursday said a seven-judge bench will re-examine petitions seeking a review of the apex court’s Sabarimala verdict delivered in September 2018.

The bench will also look at other religious issues, including entry of women in mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The order came after a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court gave a 3:2 split decision on petitions seeking a review of the apex court's decision allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala.

A majority verdict by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices AM Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra decided to keep pending the pleas. They said restrictions on women in religious places was not restricted to Sabarimala alone and was prevalent in other religions as well. The majority view did not say anything adverse against last year’s Sabarimala verdict nor did it stay the earlier judgment.

Reading out some portions of the majority view, Chief Justice Gogoi said that the petitioners were endeavouring to revive the debate on religion and faith, adding that the apex court should evolve a common policy on religious places like Sabarimala.

The minority verdict by Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud dismissed all the review pleas and directing compliance of its Sept. 28, 2018, decision.

The split decision came on 65 petitions—56 review petitions, four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas—that were filed after the Supreme Court’s Sabarimala verdict sparked violent protests in Kerala.

The apex court had by a majority 4:1 verdict lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the Ayyappa shrine in Kerala and held that the centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional.

The Sabarimala temple is scheduled to open for worship on Nov. 17. Now, with review petitions referred to a larger bench, there is no clarity whether women can enter the shrine.

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