Interpreting group-based religious freedoms: Sabarimala and the movement from definitions to limitations

Sen, Aparajito (2021) Interpreting group-based religious freedoms: Sabarimala and the movement from definitions to limitations. NALSAR Student Law Review, 15. pp. 1-26.

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In 2018, the Supreme Court of India in Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State of Kerala1 (hereinafter ‘Sabarimala’) decided that the practice of excluding menstruating women (aged between the ages of 10 to 50) from entering the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala was not constitutionally permissible. The three majority opinions of the Court, endorsed by four out of the five judges on the bench, agreed that: (a) the devotees of Lord Ayyappa did not form a religious ‘denomination’ under Article 26; and (b) the practice of excluding menstruating women was not ‘essential’ to the denomination.2 In addition to this, Chandrachud J’s concurrent opinion separately held that the practice was abhorrent to ‘constitutional morality’3 and impermissible in light of the prohibition against untouchability in Article 17.4 The sole dissenter, Malhotra J, denied jurisdiction to the petitioners5 and further held that the practice fell within the definition of ‘essential practices’ and the petitioner’s claim did not fall within the express limitations to Article 26.6 The Court’s decision led to fervent protests in the state of Kerala, with devotees of Lord Ayyappa demanding that their religious freedom be protected.7 In November 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the constitution of a larger bench to decide on questions relating to the interplay of Articles 25, 26, 14, 15 and 17.8 Subsequently, a nine-judge bench was constituted which has framed the legal questions it would be answering.9

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Sabarimala | Kerala | Temple | Supreme court | Women | Religious practice
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Arts and Humanities > Religious studies
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Mr Sombir Dahiya
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2022 10:55
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 10:55
Official URL:


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