Women pray at the Jama Masjid in New Delhi | Representational image | Keith Bedford/Bloomberg News
Women pray at the Jama Masjid in New Delhi | Representational image | Photo: Keith Bedford | Bloomberg News
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday dismissed a petition filed by the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, which had sought an order permitting the entry of women into mosques.

The Hindu Mahasabha had challenged the Kerala High Court’s dismissal of its plea in October last year. The petition was filed by Swamy Dethathreya Sai Swaroop Nath, state president of the Hindu Mahasabha.

In dismissing the plea, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi remarked: “Let a Muslim woman challenge it.”

The court’s emphasis on the standing of the petitioners to challenge the religious practice is reminiscent of Justice Indu Malhotra’s dissent in the Sabarimala judgment. Justice Malhotra was the lone dissenter on the five-judge Constitution bench which had allowed the entry of women of all age groups into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple in September last year.

What Kerala HC had ruled

The Hindu Mahasabha had relied on the apex court’s September 2018 Sabarimala judgment, contending that it should now allow the entry of Muslim women devotees in mosques for prayers along with men.

The division bench of the Kerala High Court, comprising Justices Hrishikesh Roy and A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar had, however, refused to entertain the petition, asserting that the petitioner had failed to establish that women are denied entry in Kerala’s mosques.

The high court had also specifically emphasised on the maintainability of the petition, observing: “The averments in the writ petition do not suggest that the petitioner is a person who should be ordinarily concerned with the rituals and practises of Islamic religion and, in particular, the alleged denial of entry of Muslim women in masjids.”

This was upheld by the Supreme Court Monday.


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Justice Malhotra’s dissent on Sabarimala

The Supreme Court’s restraint in this case echoes Justice Malhotra’s dissent in the Sabarimala case, when she had favoured dismissal of the petition “for want of standing”.

Justice Malhotra had begun her analysis with an observation on the right of people to approach the court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India for enforcement of their fundamental rights:

“The right to move the Supreme Court under Article 32 for violation of fundamental rights must be based on a pleading that the petitioners’ personal rights to worship in this temple have been violated,” she wrote.

“The petitioners do not claim to be devotees of the Sabarimala Temple where Lord Ayyappa is believed to have manifested himself as a ‘Naishtik Brahmachari’. To determine the validity of long-standing religious customs and usages of a sect, at the instance of an association/intervenors… would require this court to decide religious questions at the behest of persons who do not subscribe to this faith.”

This was despite the fact that the plea before the court was a Public Interest Litigation, which as a concept relaxes rules of locus standi to allow third parties to approach the court in case of violation of fundamental rights.

However, Justice Malhotra had asserted that this lack of standing should not be viewed as a “mere technicality” but as an “essential requirement” to maintain a challenge against religious practices.

Justice Malhotra had then proceeded to warn of “floodgates” being opened to “interlopers” to question religious beliefs and practises. This, she said, would spell even greater perils for religious minorities.

Relying on Articles 25 and 26(b) of the Constitution of India, both of which endow the right to freedom of religion, she had then asserted that “courts normally do not delve into issues of religious practises, especially in the absence of an aggrieved person from that particular religious faith, or sect.”

Justice Malhotra’s judgment had therefore laid out the importance of cultural dissent coming from the dissenters themselves — something that Chief Justice Gogoi’s observations Monday echoed.

The Sabarimala judgment still stands. Post the verdict, several review petitions seeking review of the majority opinion have been filed, and are yet to attain finality.


Also read: SC admits plea to lift ‘ban’ on Muslim women in mosques. But Islam doesn’t bar them at all


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16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. AMEND THE CONSTITUTION THAT NO ONE COULD INTERFERE INCLUDING SUPREME COURT ON RELIGIOUS MATTERS. ALSO RELIGIOUS FUNDS COULD NOT BE HANDLED BY ANYONE INCLUDING ANY GOVT OR SC.

  2. The funny part is that the Print has quoted a minority judgement since it is valueless. If Indu Malhotra’s judgement had prevailed then this judgement would have been accepted. Why this subterfuge???

  3. Consistently, that is what we ask of the Supreme Court of India. For a common man it is quite strange in the way they function! They sit on important cases and deal with frivolous cases which are mostly brought to the court by a small coterie of lawyers. Sometimes I wonder whether this is Supreme Court of India or the Municipal Court of Delhi!!

  4. Amend the constitution to pass an ordinance barring all indian courts in interfering with Hindu religious beliefs and all previous judgements are quashed. Nobody should be allowed to file any such cases in courts in future.

  5. I saw many comments saying muslims were the one who filed petition for entry of woman in Sabarimala. I would ask people to go through proper facts before making such wrong accusations. The PIL for Sabarimala issues was filed by Bhakti Pasrija, Prerna Kumari, Sudha Pal and Laxmi Shastri (you can verify this if you wants). So please dont drag a religion into Sabarimala discussion which has nothing to do with Sabarimala issue.

  6. For a layman’s wisdom- If the recent Sabarimala law cannot be used for passing a similar judgement bcoz of reminiscences of an individual, then the Sabarimala law should be scrapped, lest it should not remain on paper if the reality has been accepted. Need not be a lawyer to understand this

  7. It can’t be that because SC allowed women entry into Sabarimala, that women should be allowed in mosque also. If SC did not keep in mind the customs, practices, and sentiments before pronouncing Sabarimala judgement, it was their shortcomings. Besides, the main petition in the case of Sabarimala was placed by the lawyers who had no idea of the customs or, any of them ever seen the place to understand what and why such practice is in place. In the same scenario, court can’t refer to indu Malhotra’s reference to her judgements that hindu mahasabha can’t petition for women entry in mosque and only a muslim women can appeal.

    Allowing women into mosques need to be decided by their religion and need to be challenged by their women only.

    SC must appoint a higher bench on Sabarimala case and a decision need to taken, without dragging further.

  8. Yes I also feel that there are double standards of supreme court with leftist mindset or not understanding the cultural values prevailing in community. Faiths should not contested in courts unless it is really affects (I can say damages) somebody’s day to day life. Here I agree if a Muslim woman should be allowed for prayers mosques that should be contested by them not by others.

  9. There is no such as ‘Muslim women cannot enter masjid’. Indian Hindu parties will do snything to harrass muslims. Majority of 80% of Racist indian Hindus will do this kind if crap.

    • It is Muslims who interfered into Hindu religion. Temples were destroyed by Muslims, being minority still they harrased Hindu s who are in majority.

    • All over the world Islamic animals killing their own tribe shouting kafirs and bombing mosques .
      Those gutter animals who abuse Hindus as racists and extremists are very much happy if Islamic countries follows blasphey and apostasy denying religious freedom to other minorities .

  10. Corrupt judges and Leftist mindsets are responsible for such attitudes where the judiciary is allowed to get away with transgressions against Hindus while Muslims are spared and protected. The day Hindus rise in armed struggle one wonders where these judges will run!

  11. How come a petition by Muslim was allowed and ruled in favour his favour in case if Sabarinala. Such myopic views of the SC should be condemned. What type of double standards?

    • The Islamic wing of BJP and Islamic social activists must without delay file a case again.The SC that gave an unimplentable ruling against the Hindus in Sabarimala verdict must be made to eat its words

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