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The Supreme Court today declined to pass any orders on the entry of women to the Sabarimala temple till the decision of the seven-Judge Bench on larger issues connected with the same is passed.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde with Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant today said that it is exercising its discretion at this point not to pass any orders.
“There’s no doubt about the judgment (of 2018), nor about the fact that an issue is referred to a larger Bench and that Bench has not been constituted yet…. The practice has been going on for 1000s of years. Balance of convenience is that we do not pass such an order today,” CJI Bobde said.
Senior Counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for activist Rehana Fatima, told the Court that this would send a wrong signal. Senior Counsel Indira Jaising, representing activist Bindu Ammini told the Court that a reference to a larger Bench does not translate into a stay on the operation of the order.
In response, CJI Bobde said,
“In our country, the situation has become very explosive. This is one of those issues where we don’t want any violence… It is equally true that this is not the last word.
…Nobody’s right is being taken away… There is something very emotive in this matter and that’s probably the reason that led to the Court to refer it to a larger Bench.”
The Court, however, was told that Bindu Ammini was granted protection by the Court last year. In view of the same, Jaising urged the Court to extend the protection in light of the threats faced by Ammini. Additionally, Gonsalves also apprised the Court of the threats of violence faced by Rehana Fatima, both online and offline.
The Court thus, extended the protection that was granted earlier to activist Bindu Ammini. Further, it directed for the threats received by Rehana Fatima to be assessed and evaluated and protection to be granted to her, should she apply for it.
CJI Bobde also made an assurance that he would endeavor to constitute the seven-Judge Bench as early as possible.
The Sabarimala case had taken an interesting turn last month when the Supreme Court declined to pronounce its final word on the review petitions filed challenging its 2018 judgment allowing women into the temple. Instead, it chose to keep the matter pending in view of the possibility that larger issues pertaining to the Essential Religious Practices Test, the interplay between Articles 25 and 26 on one hand and Article 14 on the other and the conflict between the judgments in the Shirur Mutt case and Durgah Committee case may be decided by a larger Bench.
In the meanwhile, the Ammini and Fatima approached the Court, aggrieved by security threats received against their entry to Sabarimala the temple this year. An application filed by Ammini in this regard stated that the State of Kerala has “openly taken a stand in defiance of the Judgment” delivered in September 2018 by a five-Judge Bench led by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Ammini submitted that when she attempted to take a pilgrimage to the Sabarimala Temple on November 26 this year, she was attacked with chemical substances in front of the Office of the Commissioner of Police of Ernakulam District. She claims that the State Police failed to give her adequate protection. While detailing the ordeal she went through, the applicant has also argued that the police and state officials are in “gross contempt” of the orders of the Court and have acted against the mandate of Article 144 of the Constitution.
In a separate application by one Rehana Fatima, similar concerns of safety have been raised. Fatima has also prayed for protection, apart from seeking directions to the Police to register FIRs in case of any threats to her, including those made on social media.