The Supreme Court on Monday asked why women can't enter the Lord Ayyapa Temple in Sabarimala, Kerala, when the Constitution doesn't prohibit them from entering temples.

Supreme Court Judge Dipak Misra, who was hearing the case, said women can't be barred from entering the temple at Sabarimala without constitutional basis.

"Can entry of women be regulated on the basis of any criteria other than that of religion?" Manorama Online quoted the apex court as saying.

The court not only asked the Kerala government to file an affidavit but also asked the temple's administrator Travancore Devaswom Board to clarify its stand.

The Kerala High Court had upheld the ban on women in a previous hearing of the plea filed by the Young Lawyers Association.

The Hindu temple doesn't allow women between the ages of 10 and 50 to enter: It denies entry to women who have an active menstrual cycle.

The temple board's chief, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, in November had raked up a controversy after he said all women would be allowed to enter only after a machine was invented that would scan and judge their purity.

Feminists took to social media to protest against the sexist remark, and launched a campaign called #HappytoBleed, which was meant to dispel the prejudice that a menstruating woman was "impure".

The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for 8 February.