A Home Department official said the government wanted to know unequivocally whether the court had maintained status quo or stayed or set aside the 2018 verdict
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala is seeking more legal clarity on whether the decision of the Supreme Court last year to allow women of all age groups to worship at Sabarimala temple remained operational against the backdrop of its latest ruling to refer the question to a larger constitutional Bench.
A Home Department official said the government wanted to know unequivocally whether the court had maintained status quo or stayed or set aside the 2018 verdict. State lawyers are examining the judgment in detail, and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is expected to respond to the court order soon.
The Ayyappa temple is scheduled to open for the annual Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage on October 16. Lakhs of devotees are expected to visit the pilgrim centre over the next three months. Several, including scores of women, have already booked online in advance for a darshan.
Kerala had witnessed widespread rioting after a few women of purportedly childbearing age worshipped at the temple in the wake of Supreme Court’s order last year.
The vexed legal question of whether women of menstruating age could worship at the temple of Ayyappa, considered by many believers to be an ascetic and celibate deity, had accentuated social and religious divisions in Kerala to some measure last pilgrimage season.
Devaswom Board Minister Kadakampally Surendran told reporters in Idukki that the government was examining the verdict. It was constitutionally bound to follow whatever the Supreme Court decided. He urged the public to accept the court’s latest decision with equanimity.
“We, as a law-abiding society, had accepted the Ayodhya verdict peacefully,” he said. Mr. Surendran refused to entertain the question whether the police would accord protection to women wanting to worship at Sabarimala.
Political parties and social organisations in Kerala responded to the verdict differently.
Chennithala warns govt.
Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala warned the government against “escorting women to sannidhanam” under the “pretext” that the Supreme Court had not stayed its earlier order.
Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary M.T. Ramesh put a rider to his statement welcoming the verdict. He said the BJP had no role in last year’s “Save Sabarimala” agitation by “Ayyappa devotees”. However, if the government attempted to “sneak in women” of childbearing age to the temple, the BJP would agitate against the move alongside believers.
Left Democratic Front convener A. S. Vijayaraghavan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that the verdict was the law of the land and civil society had no choice but to accept it. Travancore Devaswom Board president-designate N. Vasu said he was yet to study the verdict.
Sasikumar Varma, head of the former ruling family of Pandalam, welcomed the verdict and portrayed it as a win for devotees opposed to the entry of women of childbearing age. Nair Service Society general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair, Sabarimala chief priest Kantararu Rajeevaru and former BJP president Kummanam Rajasekharan echoed similar sentiments.