sabrimala temple
Devotees inside the Sabarimala Temple, Kerala. [Representational Image]Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court on Friday referred the much-debated issue as to whether women should be allowed to enter Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple in Kerala's Pathanamthitta to a five-judge constitution bench.

Why can't women enter Sabarimala when constitution permits them to enter temples, asks SC

The top court has also raised six questions on the issue that it wants the constitution bench to consider. The observation is in response to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the ban on women's entry into the temple.

The entry of women in the temple has always been a topic of debate. Located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, this temple is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimated 45 million-50 million devotees visiting every year.

However, women aged between 10 and 50 years are restricted from taking the pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple as they cannot maintain purity on account of menstruation.

In January 2016, the Supreme Court had questioned the ban and said that this cannot be done under the Constitution, following which, in February, the top court reserved an order on referring the case to a constitution bench.

High hopes from SC

Women's rights activists have high hopes from the apex court.

Supreme Court
The apex court will resume hearing on the Cauvery water issue today.Supreme Court of India official website

"In the last couple of months, we have been seeing that the Supreme Court is bringing out several progressive and landmark judgments. I am hoping that tomorrow entry of women in Sabarimala would be positive. I am sure the judgement will also be very positive and landmark," activist Brinda Adige was quoted as saying by Indian Today.

Another women's rights activist is also hoping that the SC rules in the favour of the women as India is a secular country.

"I hope it [SC] will allow women to enter the temple. Otherwise, we cannot say it [India] is secular country. The restriction will be removed hopefully," said Saswati Ghosh.