New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday lifted the ban on women’s entry to Ayyappa’s Sabarimala temple saying females can’t be treated as weaker or lesser. Reading out the judgment, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said, “Women are worshipped as goddesses in India and no biological factor can be given legitimacy if it can’t pass the test of conditionality.”

While pronouncing the judgment, CJI Dipak Misra said that the ban in place violated constitutional principles and that women’s rights cannot be subverted as they are in no way less than men.

“Women no way inferior to men. On one hand, women are worshipped as Goddesses, but there are restrictions on the other hand. Relationship with God can’t be defined by biological or physiological factors,” CJI said. He also said that four judges have the same opinion in the Sabarimala temple case and one dissenting opinion by Justice Indu Malhotra.

With the ruling, women of all age groups will now be allowed in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. Misra said, “Rules violate Article 14 and 25. Devotees of Lord Ayyappa are Hindus, don’t constitute a separate religious denomination. No physiological and biological factor can be given legitimacy if it doesn’t pass the test of conditionality. Restrictions put by Sabarimala temple can’t be held as essential religious practice.”

“Present judgment won’t be limited to Sabarimala, it will have wide ramifications. Issues of deep religious sentiments shouldn’t be ordinarily interfered into,” Justice Indu Malhotra, the dissenting judge said, adding, “Religious practices can’t solely be tested on the basis of the right to equality. It’s up to the worshippers, not the court to decide what’s religion’s essential practice.”

The apex court bench, comprising CJI Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra, also noted that the right to worship is given to all the devotees and there can be no discrimination on the basis of gender. “The practice of barring women in age group of 10-50 to go inside the temple is violative of constitutional principles,” it said.

The case pertained to the pleas of Indian Young Lawyers Association and others challenging the ban on entry of women aged 10-50 years into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

A group of five women lawyers has challenged Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which authorises restriction on women “of menstruating age”. They moved the apex court after the Kerala HC upheld the centuries-old restriction, and ruled that only the “tantri (priest)” was empowered to decide on traditions.