The five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra began hearing of 65 petitions, including 56 review ones and four fresh ones against its September 28 verdict allowing women in the child-bearing age to worship at the shrine.
Justice Nariman asked counsel to confine themselves to apparent error, if any, in the September 28 verdict. Leading advocate K Parasaran, appearing for the Nair Service Society, said there was an apparent error in the judgment as Article 15 of the Constitution did not include religious places as public spaces.
Barring young women from worshipping at the shrine was also not against the concept of untouchability as it pertained to caste system which was not a matter here, he argued.
V Giri, appearing for Sabarimala tantri (chief priest), began his arguments and focussed on the peculiar celibate character of the deity and worship had to be in sync with this. Since the verdict was pronounced, the opening of the shrine, including the just- concluded pilgrimage season, had witnessed violent protests, mainly by the BJP-RSS combine to prevent young women from worshipping there.
The review petitions were earlier scheduled for hearing on January 22. But it had to be postponed as Justice Malhotra was on medical leave.