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The nine-Judge Constitution Bench will be headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.
The nine-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that will hear the reference made in the Sabarimala Review has been notified. This Bench will be headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and will begin hearing in the case on January 13.
Along with CJI SA Bobde, the nine-Judge Bench will also comprise Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, Mohan M Shantanagoudar, S Abdul Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant.
This Bench will begin hearing the case on January 13, according to the notice published on 6.
This composition of the nine-Judge Bench does not include Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra who were part of the Bench that heard, both, the main matter as well as the Review petitions in the Sabarimala case.
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.
Justices Rohinton Nariman and DY Chandrachud had dissented from the majority opinion that made the reference to a larger Bench. Justice Indu Malhotra was the sole dissenter in the 2018 judgment and had opined against allowing entry of women in the Sabarimala temple.
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.
The issues likely to come up in this reference before this nine-Judge Bench, 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?
From among the Judges on this nine-Judge Bench, Justices R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant also form part of the five-Judge Constitution Bench that is hearing the batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 of Constitution of India that gave special status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The hearing in the case remains part-heard and is scheduled to resume on January 21.