A nine-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will begin hearing the reference made in the Sabarimala Review case from January 13.
While delivering the judgment in the Sabarimala Review case, the majority opinion had referred the larger question of womens' rights under Article 14 as against the rights under Articles 25 and 26, to a larger Bench.
The decision in the review petitions filed against the 2018 Sabarimala judgment was kept pending by the Supreme Court till the larger question is decided.
A seven-Judge Bench was anticipated to be constituted for hearing this reference. According to the listing notice dated January 6, a nine-Judge Bench will begin hearing the case from January 13.
The issues likely to come up in this reference, as enlisted by the Supreme Court in its November 14 judgment, are:
(i) Interplay between the freedom of religion under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution and other provisions in Part III, particularly Article 14.
(ii) What is the sweep of expression ‘public order, morality and health’ occurring in Article 25(1) of the Constitution?
(iii) The expression ‘morality’ or ‘constitutional morality’ has not been defined in the Constitution. Is it over arching morality in reference to preamble or limited to religious beliefs or faith? There is need to delineate the contours of that expression, lest it becomes subjective.
(iv) The extent to which the court can enquire into the issue of a particular practice is an integral part of the religion or religious practice of a particular religious denomination or should that be left exclusively to be determined by the head of the section of the religious group.
(v) What is the meaning of the expression ‘sections of Hindus’ appearing in Article 25(2)(b) of the Constitution
(vi) Whether the “essential religious practices” of a religious denomination, or even a section thereof are afforded constitutional protection under Article 26?
(vii) What would be the permissible extent of judicial recognition to PILs in matters calling into question religious practices of a denomination or a section thereof at the instance of persons who do not belong to such religious denomination?
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