Legal experts have differing views on alleged violation of the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple with some suggesting “more patience” and others blaming the Centre for the non-compliance.
On September 28, a five-judge constitution bench in a 4:1 verdict paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala saying that the prevalent practice of banning women of 10 to 50 years amounted to gender discrimination.
The hill-top shrine has witnessed violent protests in support of and against the apex court verdict recently.
Senior lawyers and constitutional law experts Rakesh Dwivedi and Rajeev Dhavan were of the view that though the citizenry “by and large” respects apex court verdicts, more patience is needed in implementing the judgements in contentious issues like the Sabarimala case.
“Some more patience is required in these matters because people have vested interests. You should give more time than jump to a conclusion that it (verdict) is being violated. It needs more time. It will percolate slowly. The change will be slow in these matters,” Dwivedi argued.
Echoing similar views, Dhavan said though Sabarimala was a “highly contentious issue”, but the apex court verdict should have been respected.
Giving an example of a US court verdict, he said, “these things cannot be dealt coercively and the issues have to ring in the minds in the people.” On the other hand, senior advocate and Congress Rajya
Sabha MP KTS Tulsi blamed the central government for non-implementation of the Sabarimala verdict.
“It is a very sad state of affairs that the ruling party itself is organising crowds to oppose the judgement of the Supreme Court. This amounts to breakdown of the Constitution.
“To my mind, it has never been done so blatantly …in Delhi, BJP says that it will abide by the verdict and in Kerala, it goes and organises crowds which are opposing the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment. It is a very sad development,” Tulsi said.
He, however, said some judgments may be “difficult to enforce” keeping in mind the sensibilities of persons involved concerned, but the apex court has triggered a debate for social reforms which was not a small contribution.
Another senior advocate Ajit Sinha said that implementing a judgement becomes difficult “when there is a mass movement”.
“Second, there is laxity on the part of the authorities also. The implementation is something which has to be given effect by people who are at the ground. The Supreme Court has directed but unless the people understand that it is their job to implement it in sustained effort, it can’t be,” he said.
Lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who had argued for a party supporting the ban, said that the apex court verdict cannot be “followed” as it (judgement) had empowered the tantri (priest) of the temple to open and close the temple gates.
“It (verdict) can’t be followed. The ‘tantri’ of the temple is fully entitled for opening and closing of the temple whenever he wants to close it. It is totally left to the temple priest to when he decides to close. So, if a woman is about to enter and he closes it, you cannot stop him. It is technical violation of the order,” Sankaranarayanan said.
Dwivedi also referred to the belief of common women devotees and said that even if the apex court empowered them, they themselves do not want to go inside the temple.
“There were very few journalists and women who were going there… Women of the southern region who belong to the families, who worship Lord Ayyappa, are carrying the same mindset and they don’t want to go.
“I talked to lady lawyers from the south in the Supreme Court, they said they don’t want to go there at all. They said Ayyappa will be angry. That is the mind set. They fear God…,” Dwivedi said.
The apex court has recently said that it would hear on November 13 petitions challenging its Sabarimala verdict allowing women of all age groups entry into the temple.
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