The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned why Kerala's Sabarimala temple discriminates between women and men when Hindu scriptures like Vedas and Upanishads do not.
A three-judge bench led by Justice Dipak Misra made the statement while hearing a batch of pleas challenging the ban on the entry of women, aged between 10 and 50, inside Sabarimala, which is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa.
"So is this tradition of prohibition bound to stay on despite the fundamental right of equality envisaged in the Constitution? If discrimination is not there in the Vedas, the Upanishads, tell us when this kind of distinction really started in history," the SC asked the Kerala government and the Travancore Devaswom Board, according to the Hindu.
"Cult culture has a core group. Entry is restricted to others considered as outsiders. Religion is wholistic - Sanathana Dharma - and includes one and all without discrimination of sex, caste and gender," Justice Misra said.
The SC further asked the temple management if only men are allowed to practice spirituality.
"Is spirituality solely within the domain of men? Are you saying that women are incapable of attaining spirituality within the domain of religion?" Justice Misra asked.
At the hearing, senior advocate Indira Jaising intervened on behalf of an association of law students and said, "women brahmacharis too in this world."
"Celibacy is not the exclusive privilege of men. Article 25 of our Constitution says 'throw open' the doors of public religious spaces to all human race. Are you saying that we are not part of the human race?" Jaising said.
The court also said that the "discrimination against women would be examined under constitutional provisions, emotional arguments not permissible," while adjourning the case for six weeks. The temple management sought six weeks time to submit its response to the SC, ANI reports.
"A temple is a public religious phenomenon and it's functions should come within the constitutional parameters," the Hindu quoted the court as saying.
KK Venugopal, representing the temple management, said he will submit an affidavit containing information from around 1000 years ago to support temple's prohibition.
The SC has appointed Raju Ramachandran as amicus curiae. An amicus curiae is a person who provides the court with information needed in a matter, but does not represent any of the parties in the case.