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Sabarimala Reference: Nine-Judge Bench to hear arguments on scope of review jurisdiction and reference on February 6

The matter will be taken up for hearing on Thursday, February 6. The arguments will only be on the aspect of review jurisdiction and reference of larger issues.

Shruti Mahajan

The nine-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court which was constituted to decide on the larger questions concerning women's rights vis-a-vis religious rights will begin hearing arguments on whether questions of law can be referred to a larger Bench in a review petition.

The Bench has framed one issue for consideration which will be taken up for hearing on Thursday, February 6. The issue is whether questions of law can be referred to a larger Bench in a review petition.

The nine-Judge Bench was constituted by CJI SA Bobde to hear the issues concerning women's rights under Article 14 as against religious rights under Articles 25 and 26, following a November 2019 decision of the five-Judge Bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

The majority opinion in the Sabarimala review judgment had enumerated an in-exhaustive list of issues which needed consideration concerning larger issues of religious rights and equality. The decision on the review was left pending till adjudication on the larger questions framed.

When the nine-Judge Bench, thus constituted, took up the reference matter for hearing on Monday, Senior Counsel and eminent jurist Fali Nariman told the Court that questions of law cannot be referred to a larger Bench in a review petition.

Nine-Judge Bench constituted to hear the questions referred to a larger Bench in the Sabarimala review
Nine-Judge Bench constituted to hear the questions referred to a larger Bench in the Sabarimala review

Nariman had argued that the scope of the review jurisdiction was very limitedWhile the Apex Court can constitute a Bench to decide on Constitutional issues, reference for the same cannot be made in review matters, Nariman asserted.

Nariman's argument had found support from a few of the other Counsel with Senior Advocate Shyam Divan vehemently opposing the reference in a review matter and supplementing Nariman's argument. The Bench had assembled on Monday to hear the parties on framing of issues in the reference matter given that despite a meeting of the Counsel of all parties, specific issues to be considered by the Court could not be crystallised.

The Counsel had urged the Court to frame the issues and after Nariman's arguments it was also proposed by Senior Counsel Indira Jaising that the question of scope of review jurisdiction and reference be also taken up as a primary issue by the Court.

The Court had adjourned the matter for framing of issues and has now decided to hear the parties only on the question of "whether the Court can refer questions of law to a larger bench in a review petition?"

The matter will be taken up on Thursday, February 6.

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