Kerala government lifts restrictions at Sabarimala after High Court order

The Kerala government had invoked section 144 in all nearby base stations around the temple and have been imposing severe restrictions on the pilgrims.

After several organisations filed pleas in the Kerala High Court against the prohibitions imposed by the Kerala government at Sabarimala, a Division Bench of Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar has issued an interim order against these restrictions.

The court on Wednesday ruled that Sabarimala pilgrims should not be prevented from moving in groups and chanting ‘Ayyappa Keerthanam’ (devotional songs) on the pretext of maintaining prohibitory orders at the shrine.

The Pinarayi Vijayan government had imposed certain restrictions following the protests by the devotees against the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of women of menstruating age in the temple. The government had imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code at the Sannidhanam, Nilakkal, Pamba, Elavugal etc, banning more than 3 to 4 people assembling in these areas. Private vehicles were also banned beyond Nilakkal and people were also prevented from climbing the temple post 9 pm. KSRTC bus services were not allowed after 8.30 pm.

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The court said that the imposition of Section 144, which prohibits the assembly of four or more persons, is meant to ensure smooth movement of pilgrims. The judges said that since going to the temple in groups and chanting Keerthanams (devotional songs) is part of the pilgrimage, these cannot be prohibited.

The court said that there was nothing wrong in chanting ‘Swaimye Saranam Ayyappa’ and that it was not a threat to the law and order situation at the temple. The bench reportedly asked Ernakulam range IG Vijay Sakhare and Advocate General CP Sudhakara Prasad when they appeared before the court, whether the IG and SP at the Sabarimala did not understand Malayalam to think that Ayyappa mantras were a law and order challenge.

 

While  Bharatiya Janata Party state General Secretary K Surendran and 70 people who were arrested in connection with protests at Sabarimala have been granted conditional bail by the Pathanamthitta magistrate court which ordered them not to the enter the Ranni area for the next two months. Hindu Aikya Vedi state president, K P Sasikala was also granted bail. The 52-year-old even visited Sabarimala with her grandson and offered her prayers the next day.

The Sabarimala shrine reopened for the third time on Nov 16. So far no women of the restricted age have been able to enter the shrine.

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