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Supreme Court’s Sabarimala verdict challenge, called untenable and irrational

Two petitions challenging the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple were filed in the top court on Monday, claiming that its September 28 verdict to lift the centuries-old ban was “absolutely untenable and irrational” and no match for the “voice of people”.

The separate pleas have been filed by the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the National Ayyappa Devotees Association at a time when chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has criticised those protesting against the top court’s order and said the state government will implement its verdict.

The NSS, an organisation for the upliftment and welfare of the Nair community, contended that the temple’s now-scrapped practice of restricting the entry of girls and women aged between 10 and 50 years did not amount to discrimination on the ground of sex.

“The delay or wait for 40 years to worship cannot be considered as exclusionary and it is an error of law on the face of the judgment,” the plea said.

The NSS said that many essential religious practices will be rendered void and the religion itself may be rendered out of existence if the general ground of equality under Article 14 is res-orted to and religious practices are tested on the principle of rationality.

“The petitioners believe that no legal luminary, not even the greatest of jurists or a judge, can be a match to the common sense and wisdom of the masses. No judicial pronouncement, even of the highest judicial tribunal in this country… can be a match for the voice of the people,” said the NSS petition settled by former attorney-general K. Parasaran and filed through advocate K.V. Mohan.

It said that religious practice is a matter of faith prevalent for centuries and the ban had a reasonable relation to the object of preserving the character and identity of Lord Ayyapa as “Naishtika Brahmachari”.

Shylaja Vijayan, president of the National Ayyappa Devotees Association, which is not a party to the original petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association, contended in its petition that the verdict violated the fundamental rights of millions of people, the devotees of Lord Ayyappa.

“The judgment is absolutely untenable and irrational, if not perverse,” said the association’s plea, filed through advocate Mathews J. Nedumpara.

The association sought a review of the verdict on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction, violates the principle of natural justice and constitutional provisions.

The petitioner pointed out to how the Supreme Court’s Jallikattu verdict was overturned through a legislation following widespread protests from people and compared the protests taking place in Kerala after Sabarimala verdict to the ones that followed a the ban on the bull-taming sport organised in Tamil Nadu during Pongal festival.

The association sought the restoration of the ban on women’s entry into the temple saying Lord Ayyappa wanted to prevent himself from “being distracted by the presence of ladies of fertile ages” and this is a matter of faith.

“Faith cannot be judged by scientific or rationale reasons or logic. The educated devotees of Kerala… understood it as no kind of discrimination; the women devotees are allowed to enter thousands of other temples in Kerala and worship Lord Ayyappa,” the petitioner said.

“The notion that the judgment under review is revolutionary, one which removes the stigma or the concept of dirt or pollution associated with menstruation, is unfounded. It is a judgment welcomed by hypocrites who were aspiring for media headlines,” said the petition.

The September 28 judgment of the Supreme Court proceeds on the foundation that the practice of banning the entry of girls and women aged 10 to 50 years is derogatory to women, but the practice is not linked to physiological occurrences but to the character of the deity who is a “Naistika Brahmachari”, the association said.

Since review petitions are normally decided by the judges in chamber, an opportunity of oral hearing has been sought in the review petition by the NSS.

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