Case Brief on "Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State Of Kerala 2018" by Sanjana Shikhar


B.A.L.L.B (HONS.) 




Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State Of Kerala on 28 September, 2018

Sabarimala temple is located in Sabarimala, Kerala, in the Pathanamthitta district. Lord Ayyappa is honoured in this Hindu temple. The Travancore Devaswom Board, a statutory organisation established under the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institution Act, 1950, administers this temple. Women devotees between the ages of ten and fifty were previously denied the ability to worship in this temple. This ban on women is supported by the fact that Lord Ayyappa is a Naishtik Brahmachari, and it is vital for the deity Ayyappa's character to be preserved. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not authorised to enter the temple, according to a Travancore Devaswom Board announcement. Some gender rights activists, on the other hand, believe that this exclusionary practise, which is based on a biological feature that is unique to women, amounts to discrimination and breaches the fundamental rights granted by the Indian Constitution.

The tension between tradition and women's rights lies at the heart of the Sabarimala Temple debate. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 were not allowed to enter Sabarimala Temple due to traditions and customs, although this ban is in violation of constitutional morals.

Facts of the Case

A suit was filed in the Kerala High Court in 1990, asking for a ban on women entering the Sabarimala temple. The Kerala High Court upheld the ban on women under a particular age from entering Lord Ayyappa's hallowed shrine. In 2006, the registered association of Indian Young Lawyers filed a petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, requesting that women aged 10 to 50 be admitted. After two years, the case was referred to a three-judge panel in 2008. In January 2016, the Supreme Court of India raised concerns about such restrictions, stating that they violate constitutional morality. The Kerala government responded in April 2016 that it is obligated to defend Sabarimala devotees' right to exercise their religion. The case was referred to a Constitutional bench by the Supreme Court of India in 2017. Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu places of public worship (authorisation of entry) rules, 1965 (hereinafter referred to as 1965 rules), framed in exercise of the powers conferred by section 4 of the Kerala Hindu places of public worship (authorisation of entry) act, 1965 (hereinafter referred to as 1965 Act), is unconstitutional, according to the writ petition, because it violates Articles 14, 15, 25, and 51A (e) of the Indian Constitution.


Whether the exclusionary practise, which is based on a biological feature that is unique to women, constitutes to discrimination and breaches the core of Articles 14,15, and 17, and is not protected by morality as defined in Articles 25 and 26 of the Indian constitution?

Is this exclusionary practise a fundamental religious practise as defined by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution?

Is the Ayappa Temple a religious denomination as defined by Indian Constitution Article 26? If so, is it permissible for such a denomination, which is governed and regulated by a statutory body and funded under Article 290A of the Indian Constitution, to engage in such degrading acts in violation of constitutional morality/principles provided by Articles 14,15(3),39(a), and 51A? (e).

Is it true that Rule 3 of the 1965 Rules allows religious denominations to bar women aged 10 to 50 from entering? And, if that's the case, wouldn't it be in violation of Articles 14 and 15(3) of the Indian Constitution?

Is Rule 3(b) of the Rules of 1965 in violation of the Act of 1965? Is it possible that if it is considered intra vires, it will be in violation of the constitution's Part III provisions?

Findings of the Court

The Supreme Court ruled that everyone, regardless of gender or sex, has the freedom to religion under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. Women's freedom to visit a public temple to freely practise Hinduism and express her devotion to Lord Ayyappa is violated by such restrictive traditional practise.

The court further noted that numerous evidence provided in court suggests that Lord Ayyappa devotees do not constitute a separate religious group under art 26. A fresh approach for a religion must be established for a separate religious group. However, devotees' different activities prove that it is widespread throughout Hinduism. Mere observance of certain practices from time immemorial does not make it distinct religion.

The court held that, in the absence of scriptural or textual proof, the exclusionary practise could not be accepted as an important aspect of religion. Allowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple will not affect or change the essential notion of Hinduism.

The court determined that under Art 25, the phrase "morality" refers to constitutional morality, not society or individual morality. When a basic right is violated, the term "morality" inevitably implies "constitutional morality." The court found that a simple reading of Rule 3(b) of the 1965 Rules reveals that it is in violation of Sections 3 and 4 of the 1965 Act.

Dissenting opinion of Indu Malhotra, J:

Devotees of Lord Ayyappa, according to her, are a religious denomination entitled to protection under Article 26. Because there is a mix of legal and factual issues in this case, it must be handled by a competent civil court. A matter of fact cannot be decided in the same way as it cannot be decided in writ.

The right to file a complaint with the Supreme Court under Article 32 for a breach of the fundamental right to worship at a temple should be based on a claim that the petitioner's personal right to worship has been infringed upon. Because this restriction is provided for the benefit of all Christian faiths, Rule 3(b) is not in violation of Section 3 of the Act of 1965.

She pointed out that the equality theory enshrined in Art 14 does not take precedence over the basic right guaranteed by Art 26. The religious community must decide what constitutes an essential religious practise.

Followers of Lord Ayyappa form a distinct religious denomination because they adhere to Ayyappa Dharma and have a distinct set of beliefs, practises, and usages, as well as a code of behaviour, which they have followed since time immemorial.

She also pointed out that the restrictions on women are only partial and are an important component of their religion. Any intervention with this would be in violation of their right to worship Lord Ayyappa in the form of a Naishtik Brahmachari, as provided by art 25(1).