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The Supreme Court has today referred all petitions seeking review of its historic order allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala to a seven-judge bench. However, there seems to be no clarity on whether the court has stayed last year’s verdict.

The annual pilgrimage season begins in a few days.

A Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra gave the verdict. In the 3:2 majority judgement, Justices Chandrachud and Nariman dissented.

Delivering the judgement, CJI Gogoi said, “The entry of women into places of worship is not limited to this temple only. It is also involved in the entry of women into mosques.”

On September 28 last year, in a majority ruling, a Constitution bench consisting of the then CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra had, by a 4:1 majority lifted the ban on the entry of women between the ages 10 to 50 into the Sabarimala temple. Justice Indu Malhotra was the lone dissenting voice.

The then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had said that “a woman is not inferior to a man and patriarchy cannot be permitted to trump over faith”. “To treat women as children of a lesser god is to blink at the Constitution,” Justice Chandrachud had concurred.

As several women of menstrual age attempted to enter the temple, violent clashes and protests stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity, who is considered to be a celibate. Priests and even women devotees believe that women between 10 and 50 years of age should not be allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple.

As many as 65 petitions have sought review of the judgment. Senior advocate K Parasaran, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued that the custom of banning menstruating women from entering the temple was essential to maintain the sanctity of the temple in following the age-old practice.

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