New Delhi: The People for Dharma which fought for retention of the ban on entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 into Sabarimala Ayyappa temple expressed disappointment with the majority verdict allowing entry of women of all ages.
Sai Deepak Iyer, counsel for the NGO who made an impressive argument, said “while we are disappointed with the majority view, we draw huge inspiration from the dissenting view of Justice Indu Malhotra and considering that dissent is the flavour of the season, in a matter which concerns women’s right, two things have actually supported our position and can be considered shots in our arm.” He pointed out that on August 1, which was the last day for arguments in the petition, out of the 5 women petitioners, 2 withdrew saying that they now understand the practice of the temple and that they no longer see it as discrimination. But this aspect has not been considered by the majority.
He said “we are so happy that Justice Indu Malhotra has understood the point of view that we were placed before the court has looked at the evidence and has accepted and endorsed our position. In fact, she went to the extent of saying that in such matters, Judges should keep their personal views aside. That Judges should apply constitutional morality but not an individual or personal morality. That is a powerful statement in a matter such as this. And I think it offsets to a very large extent the position taken by the majority view. Most importantly, she has struck a beautiful distinction between diversity and discrimination, citing the plurality and the diversity of this country, the various practices that exist and their reasons”.
Mr Deepak said she has clearly supported the position that right to equality and individual right to equality cannot prevail over the rights of the devotees and the rights of the institutions when it comes to religious places, until and unless the practice is so egregious that it shocks the conscience of any reasonable person. She has clearly recognised that this case is not where the practice shakes the conscience because this practice is not based on menstruation but the character of the deity, the celibate nature of the deity.
She has also categorically recognised that the Sabarimala temple is not state-funded and therefore, falls under the definition of the arm of the state.
This was something that was touted very heavily. In her conclusion, she categorically said that the petition deserves to be dismissed for the lack of standing and eligibility. Because those who do not put faith in the tradition or do not believe in the place of worship they seek to enter into, cannot seek a right to access citing the right of equality. The position which was taken by Justice Indu Malhotra, therefore, clearly reflects the position taken by us on behalf of women devotees and the People For Dharma, he added....