Supreme Court to pronounce Sabarimala verdict today: What is at stake?

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Supreme Court to pronounce Sabarimala verdict today: What is at stake?
  • A five-member constitutional bench of the Supreme Court to announce Sabarimala verdict today
  • Kerala’s police chief Loknath Behra on Wednesday said over 10,000 police personnel will be deployed in phases around Sabarimala temple during the two-month-long pilgrim season.

A five-member constitutional bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday will pronounce its order on whether to review its judgement on a crucial rights-versus-belief dispute in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple case. On 28 September 2018, the apex court had ended an age-old practice of keeping out women in their menstruating age from the temple and had called it discriminatory. This resulted in a national uproar and whopping 56 review pleas, four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas.

Upholding the review pleas would be seen as substantiating the controversial ban, and the rallies calling to protect it spearheaded by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since last year. This would also be a major setback for the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), in Kerala and its chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who aggressively came down against the ban and jailed thousands of protesters who tried to physically stop women.

If the court invalidates the review pleas, it could further limit the chances of returning the sanction on women but the matter would hardly end there. The petitioners can resort to other judiciary tools or, as the Congress unit in Kerala has repeatedly demanded, ask the Centre to make a special law for Sabarimala, even as its legality is disputed. Although rare, the court can also refer the review pleas to a larger bench.

In any case, just like the settlement of the landmark Ayodhya case on Saturday, today’s verdict can chart a new phase in one of India’s most high profile social conflicts that have melded past myths with present-day politics. Given the temple’s annual pilgrim season is set to start on 16 November, when tensions peaked last year along with the historic entry of two women, the police see practically little chances of the protests to cool off whichever way the verdict swings.

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