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Kerala MP to table private member’s bill at Lok Sabha to overturn the Supreme Court’s Sabarimala verdict

Supreme Court had allowed entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple, going against the custom of the temple

N K Premachandran, Lok Sabha MP from Kollam in Kerala, will move a private member’s bill in the Lok Sabha seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s verdict on Sabarimala. The bill would be presented on Friday and it would be the first private member’s bill to be tabled in the new Lok Sabha.

As per reports, Premachandran’s Sabarimala Sreedharma Sastha Temple (Special Provisions) Bill, 2019 seeks “status quo on religious practices of the Sabarimala Sreedharma Sastha Temple, as existed on the 1st day of September 2018”.

N K Premachandran is an MP from Kollam and a member of Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) which is part of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala. He was among the several MPs who had opposed the Supreme Court verdict.

The bill seeks to restore the customs that were followed by the temple and if the law comes into effect all petitions and appeals pending before the court and tribunals should become invalid. Any modification in temple customs should be based on religious practices that were followed on September 1, 2018. Both the centre and state governments should ensure that religious practices are being carried out.

Since it is a private member’s bill even though it would be presented on Friday it would only be taken up for discussion on July 12.

Annie Raje, a CPI leader and General Secretary of National Federation of Indian Women termed the bill as “feudal and manuvaadi” and said that it was unfortunate for the first bill to presented is “anti-women”.

Prior to the Supreme Court verdict, the rules of the temple were such that women between the age of 10-50 were restricted from entry. The identities of women entering the temple were checked by the police and only allowed if they satisfied the requirement. A few years ago a petition was filed to allow women of all ages to enter the temples.

On 28 September 2018, the Supreme Court delivered a verdict allowing women of all ages entry into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. It was seen as a major step towards gender equality by a few, contrary to the views of women who in large numbers protested and demanded an ordinance against the verdict.

In the 4:1 majority verdict of the Supreme Court, the sole dissenting voice was of Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman in the 5-judge bench. Her Ladyship observed that there exists a difference between diversity and discrimination.

The interveners of the petition, including J Sai Deepak who represented the group People for Dharma, gave a tough fight and gave some stunning arguments. Hearing the arguments in court, Advocate Prerna Kumari, who was one of the petitioners revealed that she respects the sentiments of female devotees of the temple who are ready to wait till they turn 50 and allowed entry to the temple.

The verdict had hurt the sentiments of the devotees and triggered a countrywide protest. The Congress had also made a turnaround from their initial stand of supporting the verdict although the high command of the party has a different view.

In October review petitions had been filed challenging the Supreme Court’s decision. Despite the protests, The Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that it would not be filing a review petition and would ensure the SC order is implemented.

Without the support of the government, devotees had taken it upon themselves to safeguard their tradition. Violence had ensued at the instigation of Left Wing Extremist groups. Several activists attempted to barge into the temple after the SC order. In haste to implement the order, a massive police force was arranged to fortify the temple. A large number of Devotees have also been arrested for protesting.

With the help of the communist government, two women in total have managed to desecrate the temple, angering the devotees.

The Kerala High Court came down heavily on the Kerala Communist government for interfering unnecessarily in the daily affairs of Sabarimala temple. In February, the Supreme Court had reserved its judgement after hearing the 65 review petitions.

Prime Minister Modi had earlier voiced his support for the devotees of Sabarimala and the BJP had promised to protect traditions in its manifesto.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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