The decision not to take up the review petitions on the Supreme Court verdict allowing women in the 10-50 age-group to worship at Sabarimala on January 22 has left the BJP and Hindu entities in a fix.
On Tuesday, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said hearing on petitions seeking review of the Supreme Court’s order on Sabarimala was unlikely to commence on January 22 as scheduled, as one of the judges is on medical leave.
Justice Indu Malhotra, who had noted dissent in the September 28 verdict is on medical leave. The 49 review petitions were to be heard by the bench comprising CJI Gogoi and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
The CJI told advocate Mathew Nedumpara on his request for recording and live streaming of the Sabarimala proceedings that Justice Malhotra was on medical leave and the matter could be taken up only on her return.
In November, the court, which considered the review petitions, said admission of the pleas could be considered only on January 22 and till then no plea regarding Sabarimala would be entertained. However, the court had made clear that the September 28 verdict was not stayed.
Pleas to take up the matter earlier during the Sabarimala pilgrimage season itself rejected with the court which stuck to the January 22 deadline.
Since then, the BJP-RSS combine has been opposing the Pinarayi Government's insistence on implementing the verdict. It claimed that since the matter would be taken up on January 22 itself, the Government could hold on till then.
There was hope that since the court was categorical on the date, the review petitions would be admitted. Even the Nair Service Society which has been a strong votary against young women entry right from the start insisted on waiting for January 22. Others like BJP, RSS and Congress had initially welcomed the verdict and hailed it historical and after a few days turned sides as they saw a ‘political opportunity’ in being part of the protest.
The review petition was what they all clinged on to and with an indefinite delay, they are now in a quandary. Worse still they have refused to make clear their stand in case the review pleas are rejected. For the LDF, it had stated right from the start that it would go by the court order.
The Sabarimala season gets over in a couple of days and when the shrine opens for the monthly pujas, they will have to continue with the protests.
For the Government, there is a claim that it cannot indefinitely put off implementing the verdict which has not been stayed. Already three young women have worshipped at the shrine and as a minister (MM Mani) claimed many more have worshipped. If true, it can be turned advantageous to the Government stand favouring entry of young women and the matter can be brought to the notice of the court when it is to consider admission of the review pleas.
But with polarisation going stronger, the Sabarimala issue can only lead to more Left supporters shifting loyalties and BJP-RSS keeping the issue live.