New Delhi: Using its “discretionary power”, the Supreme Court on Friday declined to pass any order on allowing women’s entry in Kerala's Sabarimala temple.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde emphasised that since the issue has now been referred to a larger bench of seven judges, the 2018 judgment letting women of all ages enter is not the final word on it.
“No doubt there is a 2018 judgment but there is no doubt also that the issue has been referred to a larger bench. Balance of convenience is that no order on women’s entry is passed today,” observed the bench, which also included Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, on behalf of Fathima AS, had pleaded for a direction to the Kerala government for facilitating her entry in terms of the 2018 judgment by the top court but the bench remained indisposed.
“The practice in Sabarimala is thousands of years old. Some issues in this country become explosive and this is one of those issues. Let us take a call when a larger bench sits. Police in a temple isn’t our idea,” it added.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising also appeared in the matter for women rights activist Bindu, who was one of the first women who entered the sanctum sanctorum in January this year.
Jaising contended that the law is clear on the issue that until the 2018 judgment is stayed, that order needs to be complied with by all authorities.
She also cited the November 2019 judgment to point up that while three of five judges ruled in favour of referring the issue to a larger bench, two other judges, in their dissenting order, directed the Kerala government to comply with the 2018 judgment.
The CJI retorted that the law might be in her favour but the reality is that the subject is very emotive. "Please be patient. The larger bench is yet to be set up. We are exercising our discretion in not passing any order today," said Justice Bobde.
At this, Jaising requested that the court might clarify that there is no stay but the bench said it is disinclined to say anything in the order today. "We are not saying whether you can go or you cannot go. If they welcome you, it is alright. But we, in our discretion, will not say anything today," said the Chief Justice.
Jaising then requested the court to expedite the hearing of the reference, to which the CJI agreed.
In its order, the bench said all endeavours will be made to set up the seven-judge bench expeditiously and the individual matters will come up for hearing after the reference is decided. The court also asked the Kerala government to continue giving security to Bindu in terms of a previous order.