Case Name: Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors vs. The State of Kerala & Ors.
Citation: Writ Petition (Civil) No 373 of 2006
Court: Supreme Court
Bench: Deepak Mishra, A.N. Khanwilkar, Rohintan Nariman, Indu Malhotra, D.Y. Chandrachud
Indian Young Lawyers Association
Travancore Devaswom Board
State of Kerala
Pandalam Royal Family
In 1990, a case was filed in Kerala High Court demanding for the prohibition on the passage of females inside the Sabarimala temple. The Kerala High Court had maintained the ban of females of specific age section inside the sacred place of Lord Ayyappa. In 2006, a case was filed under Art 32 of the Indian Constitution in the Supreme Court by the registered association of Indian Young Lawyers demanding entry of females between 10 to 50 years.
After 2 years in 2008, the matter was referred to the three-judge bench. In January 2016 Supreme Court of India brought up issues against such bans and said that this isn’t as protected under constitutional morality. In April 2016, the Kerala government answered that it is to protect the fundamental right to practice and propagate the religion of Sabarimala devotees. In 2017 Supreme Court of India referred the matter to the Constitutional bench.
In the writ petition, it was contended that Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu places of worship (authorisation of entry) rules, 1965 (hereinafter alluded as 1965 guidelines) outlined in the exercise of the forces given by sec 4 of the Kerala Hindu place of worship (authorisation of section) act, 1965 (hereinafter alluded as 1965 Act) is illegal on the grounds that it disregards Articles 14,15,25 and 51A(e) of Indian Constitution.
- Is the exclusionary practice, which depends on the normal biological process to the female gender orientation is violative of the very essence of Articles 14,15 and 17 and not secured by morality as utilized in Articles 25 and 26 of the Indian constitution?
- Is this exclusionary practice establishes a fundamental religious practise under Art 25 of the Indian constitution?
- Is the Ayappa Temple is a Religious group under Art 26 of the Indian constitution? If yes, regardless of whether such denomination managed by the legal public authority and financed under Art 290A of the Indian constitution, is it permitted to practice such derogatory practice which is violative of under Articles 14,15(3),39(a) and 51A(e).
- Is Rule 3 of 1965 Rules allows religious denomination to restrict the passage of females between the age of 10 to 50? What’s more, assuming this is the case, is it not against Articles 14 and 15(3) of the Indian constitution?
- Is rule 3(b) of the Rules of 1965 is ultra vires to the Act of 1965? In case we consider it as intra vires, will it be violative of the basics of Part III of the constitution?
Arguments by Petitioners
It was contended that exclusionary practice brings in discrimination against females as a class since the restriction to female aged between 10 to 50 years. In Bennett Coleman and Co. and Ors. v.Union of India and Ors. It is said that this segregation is just on the ground of sex on the grounds that the organic element of the feminine cycle radiates from the attributes of a specific sex.
It was contended that such practice which is exclusively based on gender is violative of Article15(1) and Article 15(2)(b). This customary practice abuses article 14 in light of the fact that the characterization does not have a Constitutional object. It also violates the individual right to practice religion. The mensuration period of women is not permanent, hence banning them permanently is violating the constitution. It is contended that Lord Ayyappa don’t have a religious denomination; the name or little difference of ceremonies does not allow the devotees to be a separate religious denomination. Moreover, if devotees of Lord Ayyappa establish a religious denomination, the ban on females is certifiably not a fundamental religious practice and it’s not necessary and it also violates Article 21 and Article 17.
Arguments by Respondents
It was contended that the expression is given in article 25(2)(b) shows that there should not be caste-based discrimination.
It is contended that females underneath the age of 10-50 can freely go into any temple and exercise their entitlement to worship but this situation is not discriminatory as it is to maintain the purely of this particular temple.i.e. Naishtik Brahmachari. They are allowed to go to other temples of Lord Ayyappa. The customs were practised since immemorial without any meddling and hence it is valid as per Art 13(3) (b). Moreover, the restriction is valid as it might cause distraction in the men due to the presence of women.
It was also argued that the devotees of Lord Ayyappa do have a religious denomination since they follow Ayyappa Dharma, every one of the devotees is called Ayyappans and all-female who are more than the age of 50 and who are allowed in the temple are called Malikapurams.
It was also considered that Lord Ayyappa is a religious denomination now which was held by the Kerala high court in S. Mahendran v. The Secretary, Travancore Devaswom Board and Ors. It is also contended that the fundamental object of Art 17 is to ban caste-based untouchability in the Hindu religion and no such practise is carried on in the temple.
The court held the case in favour of the petitioner in a 4:1 majority.
Justice Chandrachud in his judgment expressed that restricting just females from the right to worship implies the subordination of females. He further remarks that the exclusionary practice which depends on ‘biological factors’ that are non-religious in nature, recommending that females can’t keep the ‘vrutham’ are taking part in stereotypes encouraging discrimination in society. Moreover, only because of mensuration restricting someone is unconstitutional and Art 17 also include women hence practising such will lead to a patriarchal push towards the society.
Justice Mishra proclaimed any rules which separates and sabotage females’ dignity will be struck down as it is violative of Article 14 and 15. Moreover, devotees of Ayyappa didn’t pass the test for the religious denomination and hence it cannot be gain separate religious identity. He interpreted that ‘classes and sections’ also include women and told that it needs state mandate reform. Futhermore, he struck down rule 3(b) of the Kerela Hindu Places of Public Worship Rules of 1965 and said that practising prayers without women are not an essential religious practice.
Justice Nariman delivered a concurring opinion saying he cannot grant the devotees separate denomination but can call them Hindus who worship idol Ayyappa and declared denominational freedom under Art 25(2)(b). He said that denying female their right to worship is unconstitutional.
Justice Malhotra gave a dissenting opinion saying religious practice must be in the internal part of the temple and it’s their internal affair, no matter if their practice is rational and illogical. She mentioned that the temple is qualified as a religious denomination. Moreover, she said Art 14 does provide the right to equality to women but it cannot overlap Art 25. She denies that the practice was violative of Art 17, the discrimination was simply to maintain the purity of the temple. The discrimination mentioned in Art 17 does not include gender-based hence it was not violative.
 Vineet Mishra, Brief analysis of Sabarimala Temple case Indian Young Lawyers Association v/s Kerala, Legal Service India E-Journal, http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-4872-brief-analysis-of-sabarimala-temple-case-indian-young-lawyers-association-v-s-kerala.html
 Sabrimala Case Summary, LAW CIRCA (Dec 15, 2019), https://lawcirca.com/sabarimala-case-summary/
 1973 AIR 106, 1973 SCR (2) 757
 Supra note 2
 AIR 1993 Ker 42
 Sabrimala Temple Entry, SUPREME COURT OBSERVER, (Sept 18, 2018), https://www.scobserver.in/court-case/sabrimala-temple-entry-case/plain-english-summary-of-judgment-ee5ae148-9597-479f-84d7-35d398ed5e68