Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State of Kerala

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 28/09/2018

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: Dipak Misra, AM. Khanwilkar, R. Nariman, DY. Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra

REFERENCE: (2018) 13 SCALE 75

PARTIES

Petitioner: Indian Young Lawyers Association

Respondent: The State of Kerala

SUBJECT: The judgment questions the validity of an age-old practice of not allowing women who range between 10 to 50 years into the temple of lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala, Kerala.

FACTS: The petitioner Association filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution questioning the validity of Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 which prohibited the entry of women who range between 10-50 years.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

The Indian Constitution:

  • Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part III
  • The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
  • The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III.
  • Article 14: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India
  • Article 15: The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them
  • Article 17: Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden The enforcement of any disability arising out of Untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law
  • Article 25(1): Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion
  • Article 25(2)(b): Providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
  • Article 26(b): Every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to manage its own affairs in matters of religion
ISSUES:

1. Whether Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 is constitutionally valid?

JUDGEMENT:

The petitioners contended that,

  • The exclusionary practice of women between 10 to 50 years of age is due to certain biological features which is exclusively present only in women however men of all age groups are permitted to enter without any restrictions.
  • This practice is violative of Articles 14 and 15 as there is an unreasonable sex-based discrimination. Prime requirement of any legislation to pass the test of reasonability under Article 14 is the presence of intelligible differentia, i.e. a valid and reasonable ground on which a classification is made, which has been miserably failed in the present case.
  • Due to this unreasonable classification the religious freedom of women between 10- 50 years of age under Article 25 of the Constitution is grossly violated. Further the exclusionary practice which is not the core essential principle of the religion cannot seek protection under Article 25 as it is not an essential religious practice.
  • Enlarging the scope of Article 17 which prohibits untouchability, the present temple entry rule is to be viewed as a rule which promotes the evil of untouchability.

The respondents contended that,

  • Women as a whole were not prohibited entry, only those between 10-50 years were excluded due to the celibacy form of lord Ayyappa.
  • The Ayyappa devotees form a separate denomination under Article 26 as all the conditions to constitute a denomination such as common faith, common name, and common organisation stands fulfilled. All the devotees who wish to come to the temple has to undergo a 41 days vratham (fasting) during which they wear similar dress either in orange or blue, a chain, and abstain from non-religious practices. Once the 41 days fasting commences the devotees are called as Ayyappas and not by their individual name. Therefore, the temple is at liberty to decide its own administrative matters.

Upon hearing the parties to the case, the Court held that, the exclusionary practice is violative of fundamental rights under Articles 14,15, 17 and 25. Further, the Court went on to say that, Exclusionary practices are contrary to constitutional morality. Any practice which is derogatory to the dignity of women lacks constitutionality. The social exclusion of women, based on menstrual status, is a form of untouchability which is an anathema to constitutional values. Notions of “purity and pollution”, which stigmatize individuals, have no place in a constitutional order.

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