A five-member constitution bench in a 4-1 majority on 28 September, struck down provisions of The Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 that banned women between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the temple, a practice that had been in place for centuries. Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman on the bench, had a dissenting view. The Supreme Court verdict which was viewed by the cosmopolitan majority and a larger section of the media too as a leap forward for gender equality created profound disquiet in southern India with protests by women against the right of unrestricted entry to the shrine. Soon after the verdict hundreds of Ayyappa devotees took out protest marches at various parts of the state demanding a review of the Supreme Court order permitting women of all ages to worship at Sabarimala temple.
For now, the Supreme Court has refused an immediate hearing of the plea seeking review of its verdict. The three-judge SC bench, however, allowed the submission by Shylaja Vijayan, the president of National Ayyappa Devotees Association, and has agreed to consider the listing of the review in ‘due course’.