New Delhi: Referring the issue of the women’s entry to the Sabarimala temple to a seven-judge larger bench, the Supreme Court hyphenated this case with that of the female genital mutilation observed by Dawoodi Bohra community, the issue of allowing women inside the mosque and the other contentious issue of allowing Parsi women to visit Parsi places of worship even after they marry non-Parsis.
“In a legal framework where the courts do not have any epistolary jurisdiction and issues pertaining to religion, including religious practices, are decided in exercise of jurisdiction under Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code or Article 226/32 of the Constitution the court should tread cautiously. This is time honoured principle and practice,” CJI Gogoi said.
Here is a glimpse into the cases:
Dawoodi Bohra, a sect of Shia Islam community practises female genital mutilation (FGM). It is generally performed when a girl is seven years old. It involves the total or partial removal of the clitoral hood. The community believes that male and female circumcision is required as “acts of religious purity”.
This case has also reached the Supreme Court as a Delhi-based lawyer sought a ban of FGM. In September 2018, the Supreme Court referred the PIL to a five-judge constitution bench.
In October this year, the Supreme Court has sought the Centre’s response on a plea seeking entry of Muslim women in mosques across the country
There has been a debate on whether the religion prohibits women from entering the religious place or whether the clerics have imposed the restriction. Soon after SC’s Sabarimala verdict in 2018, this issue came to the fore.
In April, when the petition came up for hearing, the court said it was compelled to hear the couple in the background of the verdict in the Sabarimala temple case, in which a Constitution Bench had declared the ban on women of a certain age unconstitutional and discriminatory.
Presently, women are allowed to offer prayers at mosques under the Jamaat-e-Islami and Mujahid denominations. Women are barred from mosques by the predominant Sunni faction. Even in mosques where women are allowed, there are separate entrances and enclosures for worship for men and women.
In 2017, the Supreme Court allowed two Parsi sisters to participate in the last rites of their father though they had married to non-Parsis. There is a religious custom in India of not allowing Zoroastrian women to enter the Fire Temple and the Tower of Silence if they marry a non-Zoroastrian person. This custom was challenged before the Supreme Court after a Zoroastrian woman was denied entry into Zoroastrian institutions. The SC had ruled in favour of allowing the entry.