Polity Notes


The Sabarimala Temple, considered the abode of Lord Ayyappa is located at Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. It prohibitted the entry of women in their menstruating years (between the age of 10 to 50 years), on the ground that it is a place of worship.

In 2006, Indian Young Lawyers Association filed a PIL before the SC challenging the Sabrimala Temple’s custom of excluding women arguing that the custom violates the right to equality (Article 14) and freedom of religion (Article 25) of female worshippers.

On 28th September, 2018 in Indian Young Lawyer’s Association v. State of Kerala case, Supreme Court by 4:1 majority held that Ayyappa Temple’s practice of excluding women in age group of 10-50 years is unconstitutional as this practice violate the fundamental right to freedom of religion (Article 25(1)) of female worshippers. Supreme Court struck down Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu places of Public Worship Act as unconstitutional. Rule 3(b) allowed for Hindu denominations to exclude women from public places of worship, if the exclusion was based on ‘custom’.

The Five Judge bench of Supreme Court was headed by CJI Justice Dipak Misra. He and Justice Nariman, Justice Chandrachud, Justice Khan Wilkar gave the concurring judgement and the dissenting judgement was given by Justice Mrs. Indu Malhotra stating that in a secular polity, it was not for the courts to interfere in matters of religion and the same must be left to those practicing the religion.