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Sabarimala Court Cuts: Guess who briefly called women courageless, which seniors have visited Lord Ayyappa, and who failed to intervene

Some courageous women, fighting spirits, yesterday
Some courageous women, fighting spirits, yesterday

In the ongoing hearing of petitions seeking the right to worship for women devotees of the Sabarimala temple before a Justice Dipak Misra-led three-judge bench this afternoon at Court No.4, senior counsel KK Venugopal, while arguing for the temple board, said women could not be recruited to be fielded in the frontline of armed forces, because they lack courage.

The moment he said this, it led to a lot of consternation in the courtroom. Sensing the damage-potential of his remark, Venugopal immediately withdrew it, but strangely without choosing an alternative appropriate expression, to convey what he intended.

Venugopal's instant withdrawal of the politically incorrect expression led to considerable relief in the court room, even though many wondered whether there is any other right expression which could have conveyed what he wanted to.

Curious bench

Justice Kurian Joseph was at his curious best, when he asked senior counsel MN Krishnamani, who wants to intervene on behalf of Swami Gurunath Thirtha Swamiji, whether there was any 'Swaminin', meaning whether there was any female spiritual guru who would espouse the cause of female devotees.

Krishnamani told the bench that Thirtha Swamiji supports the cause of women's right to worship, and therefore, he would be defending the cause of the petitioners.

Who's been to Sabarimala?

The curiosity bug appeared to have affected Justice Dipak Misra too as he repeatedly asked whether there was anyone among the counsel who had gone to Sabarimala.

To this Venugopal answered yes, drawing on his visit in the 1970s.

Senior counsel, K Parasaran and V Giri also recalled their visits.

Krishnamani said he had gone to the temple, but was not fortunate enough to climb the 18 sacred steps, as he had not observed the 41-day penance.

Another counsel also wanted to make a brief submission on behalf of a member of parliament, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who claims to be a devotee of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala.

Chandrashekhar, in an email, had claimed that the restrictions on the right to entry of female devotees in the age group of 10 to 50 cannot be called discriminatory, but are based on beliefs and customs.

Who wanted to intervene but...

Irrepressible PIL lawyer, ML Sharma, also wanted to intervene in the matter and sought to enlighten the bench on Hindu religious symbols.

Justice Dipak Misra told the counsel who wanted to intervene, to come if they find any additional points to make, after listening to the counsel for the parties.

For this, Misra insisted that the counsel who wanted to intervene should attend all hearings, and only then could they qualify for this opportunity.

KKV's substantive submissions

Venugopal made two significant submissions today. First, he submitted that there is an important distinction between Article 25 and 26, which makes the latter so special.

While Article 25 is subject not only to public order, morality and health, but to the other provisions of Part III, dealing with Fundamental Rights, Article 26, which deals with freedom to manage religious affairs, is not so subject to the other provisions of Part III, apart from public order, morality and health.

This deliberate omission in Article 26 by the framers, he argued, makes it immune from the influence of other provisions, namely, Articles 14 and 15, dealing with equality and non-discrimination, respectively.

Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, as a friend of the court, cautioned the bench not to rush to deliver a verdict in this complex case, as it involved issues of multiculturalism in a plural society.

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