Shani Shingnapur
Women activists were stopped from entering Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra Saturday, April 2, 2016. Picture: Teachers and students stage a demonstration against for not allowing to perform religious rights at Shani (Shani Shingnapur) temple of Maharashtra; at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on Jan 30, 2016.IANS

Women cannot be stopped from entering the Shani Shingnapur temple located in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district, Bombay High Court reportedly said Wednesday. 

The high court made the observations in response to a petition challenging the age-old tradition of denying entry to women inside the shrine where deity Shani is worshipped. The court observed if men can have access to all places of worship, so can women.

"Women cannot be barred from entering Shani Shinganapur temple. Even women can go where men can," Asian News International quoted the Bombay High Court as saying.

"There's no law which prevents women from entering temples; Women should have equal access to places of worship. If men can so can women! In a refreshing observation Bombay HC says women should get equal access to places of worship," CNN-IBN News reported.

The high court has asked the Maharashtra government to submit its statement in the court April 1, when it will hear the matter, according to ANI.

The tradition had barred women from entering the temple. However, restrictions were relaxed and they were allowed to step inside the temple following awareness campaigns in 2011. But they are still prohibited from entering the chauthara (platform) where black stone idol of Shanidev is placed.

Women activists Vidya Bal and Nilima Varta filed a petition in the Bombay High Court, seeking an end to the gender barrier by allowing women to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, according to the Press Trust of India.

Their move got support from several women from across the state who marched Jan. 26 to enter the temple, but were detained mid-way. They were released later. The petition was moved after villagers performed purification ritual when one women went to the chauthara.