Chief priest’s action violates Supreme Court verdict

Any form of exclusion based on concepts of ‘impurity and pollution’ amounts to untouchability Closure of the Sabarimala temple’ssanctum sanctorumon Wednesday to perform ‘purification rites’ after two women of menstruating age managed to enter may amount to using the concept of impurity and pollution to violate the women’s right against untouchability. Though temple priest Kandararu Rajeevaru explained that his action should not be treated as “any discrimination towards women”, the Supreme Court has clearly laid down in its September 28 verdict – which is not yet stayed and is fully operational — that any form of exclusion based on concepts of “purity and pollution” amounts to untouchability, a practice abolished under Article 17 of the Constitution. Notions of “purity and pollution”, which stigmatise individuals, can have no place in a constitutional regime, the Supreme Court had held in its Sabarimala judgment. The court made it clear that untouchability was not confined to practices relating to lower castes. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, in his opinion, expanded untouchability to any practice which amounts to “systemic humiliation, exclusion and subjugation faced by women.” Review petitions A five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is scheduled to hear on January 22 the review petitions, including one by Rajeevaru, against the verdict which struck down the ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the temple. Symbol of exclusion “Prejudice against women based on notions of impurity and pollution associated with menstruation is a symbol of exclusion. The social exclusion of women, based on menstrual status, is but a form of untouchability which is anathema to constitutional values,” Justice Chandrachud observed in his opinion. The court held that “regarding menstruation as polluting or impure, and worse still, imposing exclusionary disabilities on the basis of menstrual status, is against the dignity of women which is guaranteed by the Constitution.” The main opinion, written by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said it was “an essential part of the Hindu religion to allow Hindu women to enter into a temple as devotees and followers of Hindu religion and offer their prayers to the deity.”

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