India's top court to review order lifting ban on women entering Hindu temple

According to tradition, women of child-bearing age are not allowed in Kerala's Sabarimala temple.
According to tradition, women of child-bearing age are not allowed in Kerala's Sabarimala temple.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (DPA) - India's Supreme Court on Thursday (Nov 14) said it will appoint a seven-judge bench to review petitions calling for the overturning of its 2018 ruling that lifted a ban on women of menstruating age from entering a temple.

According to tradition, women of child-bearing age - between 10 and 50 years old - are not allowed in Kerala's Sabarimala temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Ayyappa, so as not to tempt the deity, who is believed to be celibate.

Traditionally, Hinduism also regards menstruating women as unclean and they are not allowed to take part in religious rituals.

India's Supreme Court ruled in September 2018 that the Sabarimala ban on women violated the right to freedom of religion.

The verdict led to violent protests across Kerala and women trying to enter the shrine were sent back and some even assaulted. Since the verdict, only two women have managed to enter the Sabarimala temple.

Several petitions were filed by various groups of devotees and organisations seeking a review of the Supreme Court verdict.

Most of the petitioners said constitutional morality could not be applied to matters of faith and religious beliefs could not be tested on the basis of rationality, Live Law reported.

On Thursday, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said a larger seven-judge bench would look into the review petitions, a lawyer representing a petitioner said.

The bench did not stay its order of last September, which means women are still legally allowed to enter the temple.