Sabarimala: Can refer questions of law to larger Bench, rules SC

Sabarimala: Can refer questions of law to larger Bench, rules SC

Agency News

Supreme Court has held that its five-judge Bench can refer questions of law in relation to the Sabarimala review to a larger Bench, even when it exercises its limited power under review jurisdiction.

The Bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde on Monday prepared seven questions to be heard by a nine-judge Constitutional Bench on issues relating to freedom of religion under the Constitution and faith.

The questions include those on "scope and ambit of religious freedom and interplay between religious freedom and freedom of beliefs of religious denominations".

It said the nine-judge Constitutional Bench would look into with the right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution and its interplay with the right of various religious denominations.

It would also deal with the extent of judicial review regarding religious practices and meaning of 'sections of Hindus' occurring in Article 25 (2)(b) of the Constitution.

The Bench would also look into the power of a person, who does not belong to a particular religion or a sect, to question the religious beliefs of that religion through a public interest litigation.

The hearing is to begin on February 17. One lawyer from each side will make leading arguments, and get one day to present their views. Another two hours each would be given to lawyers to make supplementary arguments.

It was on November 14 that a five-judge Bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi observed by 3:2 majority that certain issues in the Sabarimala review were common to cases pending concerning women entry in mosques, validity of the practice of female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohra community and the right of Parsi women who had married outside the community to enter Fire Temples.

It held that review petitions could be decided only after legal questions concerning women’s rights vis-a-vis religious practices were settled by a larger bench of not less than seven judges.