Decided on May 11,2020

Kantaru Rajeevaru Appellant
Indian Young Lawyers Association Respondents

Cited Judgements :-



S.A.BOBDE, CJI. - (1.)Indian Young Lawyers Association filed Writ Petition (Civil) No. 373 of 2006 challenging the validity of Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 (for short, 'the 1965 Rules'). A further direction to the respondents therein to permit female devotees between the ages of 10 to 50 years to enter the Sabarimala temple without any restrictions was sought in the Writ Petition. By an order dated 30th October 2017, a three Judge bench of this Court referred the matter to a larger bench for resolution of the questions raised in the Writ Petition. The Writ Petition was placed before a Constitution Bench consisting of five Judges. By a majority of 4:1, this Court allowed the Writ Petition on 28.09.2018. It was held by this Court that the devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination and therefore cannot claim the benefit of Article 26 of the Constitution of India. This Court also concluded that exclusion of women between the ages of 10 to 50 years from entry into the temple is violative of Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Further, Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 was declared as violative of Article 25 (1) to the Constitution of India and ultra vires Section 3 of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965.
(2.)Several review petitions were filed which were listed along with fresh Writ Petitions in open Court and heard together. Ranjan Gogoi CJ, and A.M. Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra, JJ were of the opinion that the scope of the freedom of religion guaranteed under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution needs an authoritative pronouncement by a larger bench of not less than seven Judges. The contours of judicial review in matters pertaining to essential religious practices was another issue which was identified to be adjudicated upon by a larger bench. According to them, the determination of the questions of law referred to a larger bench would have a bearing on pending writ petitions relating to entry of Muslim women in durgahs/mosques, the entry of Parsi women married to non-Parsis into the holy fire place of Agyari and the challenge to the practice of female genital mutilation in Dawoodi Bohra Community. In such view, certain questions of law were referred to a larger bench. According to the reference, the conflict of opinion between the judgments in Commissioner Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Shri Lakshmindra Thritha Swaminar of Sri Shirur Mutt [1954] SCR 1005, and Durgah Committee, Ajmer v. Syed Hussain Ali and Ors. [1962] 1 SCR 383 pertaining to the role of the Court in matters which are essential religious practices had to be resolved.
(3.)The following issues were framed for consideration to be decided by a larger bench:
(i) Regarding the interplay between the freedom of religion under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution and other provisions in Part III, particularly Article 14.

(ii) What is the sweep of expression 'public order, morality and health' occurring in Article 25(1) of the Constitution.

(iii) The expression 'morality' or 'constitutional morality' has not been defined in the Constitution. Is it over arching morality in reference to preamble or limited to religious beliefs or faith. There is need to delineate the contours of that expression, lest it becomes subjective.

(iv) The extent to which the Court can enquire into the issue of a particular practice is an integral part of the religion or religious practice of a particular religious denomination or should that be left exclusively to be determined by the head of the section of the religious group.

(v) What is the meaning of the expression 'sections of Hindus' appearing in Article 25(2)(b) of the Constitution.

(vi) Whether the 'essential religious practices' of a religious denomination, or even a section thereof are afforded constitutional protection under Article 26.

(vii) What would be the permissible extent of judicial recognition to PILs in matters calling into question religious practices of a denomination or a section thereof at the instance of persons who do not belong to such religious denomination?
The review petitions were adjourned till the determination of the questions by a larger bench.

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