Thursday will see the Supreme court pass an important verdict on Sabarimala. This is on a review petition challenging the court’s earlier decision on allowing the entry of women of all age groups into the Lord Ayyappa shrine in Kerala. The original practise was that menstruating women in the age group of 10 to 50 years were not allowed to go to this temple.
What has changed since the verdict in September last year?
In the Ayodhya verdict on Saturday, the CJI-led bench recognised Ram Lalla as a juristic person (a non-human legal entity). During the Sabarimala trial, those opposing the entry of all women had also argued in favour of the rights of Lord Ayyappa who is seen of an eternal celibate nature at the temple. The argument is that if Ram Lalla is a juristic person, why shouldn’t Ayyappa be conferred the same stature. All eyes are on whether the Ayodhya verdict has a bearing on the verdict on this review petition.
Not that petitioners are hopeful. Because it is very rare that benches overturn their own orders. Unless the five-judge bench decides to refer the entire matter to a larger 7-judge bench in which case, the entire matter will have to heard afresh.
The verdict has political ramifications as well. The Mandala-Makavilakku season is to start on Sunday and if the original verdict is unchanged, it will mean deployment of a huge security force to ensure law and order in the Pamba forest area and the path leading to Sabarimala temple. Last year, protesting devotees – both men and women – had tried to block women in the age group of 10 to 50 from climbing up the steps leading to the temple.
The LDF government which favoured entry of women, is duty bound to implement the SC order but has witnessed resistance from the temple priests and the opposition – BJP and the Congress.
It will also be interesting to see how the BJP reacts to the verdict, given its enthusiasm in welcoming the SC order on Ayodhya. Rahul Easwar, an activist and a member of the family of Sabarimala priests, has favoured the BJP government at the Centre bring an ordinance should the apex court stand by its 2018 verdict.