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Lifting the ban, the Chief Justice of India said "restrictions put by Sabarimala temple can't be held as essential religious practice".

Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra, while reading the judgement said that Law and Society are tasked with the responsibility of acting as equalizers and devotion can not be subjected to discrimination.

"Right to worship is given to all devotees and there can be no discrimination on the basis of gender".

The dissenter, to the surprise of many, was the lone woman judge on the bench - Justice Indu Malhotra - who said in order to maintain secularism, issues which have deep religious connotations should not be tinkered with by courts. She was quoted by ANI, "Religious practices can't exclusively be tested on the basis of the right to equality".

Hindu pilgrims queue outside the Sabarimala Temple to offer prayers to the Hindu deity "Ayappa", about 70 kms (43 miles) west of the town Pathanamthtta in the southern Indian state of Kerala, on January 15, 2003.

The top court heard the PIL filed by the non-profit body Indian Lawyers Association which sought the entry of all women and girls to the temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappan and challenged Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship Rules 1965.

"The right to move the Supreme Court under Article 32 for violation of fundamental rights must be based on a pleading that the petitioners" personal rights to worship in this temple have been violated. "The ban says presence of women deviates from celibacy. Constitutional morality in a pluralistic society gives freedom to practice even irrational customs", she said. "Relationship with God can't be defined by biological or physiological factors", he added.

CJI Misra said Sabarimala temple practice violates rights of Hindu women.

"All devotees are equal and there can not be any discrimination on the basis of gender", Misra said.

The Supreme Court on Friday will pronounce its verdict in the Sabrimala case which pertains to a ban on entry for women aged between 10 and 50 inside the much-revered temple complex in Kerala.

"What is essential practice in a religion is for the religion to decide".

"India is a country comprising of diverse religions, creeds, sects each of which have their faiths, beliefs, and distinctive practises".

Before her appointment as Supreme Court Justice, Indu Malhotra had practiced law for three decades - she specialises in arbitration, and has appeared in various domestic and worldwide commercial arbitrations.

Significantly, the board had asked the court to steer clear of sitting in judgment on religious matters. But then, the issue seems to be far from over legally as those arguing for the status quo at Sabarimala planning to immediately move a review petition in the Supreme court. Menstrual cycles have been treated as a taboo by attaching a stigma to it. Years of institutionalisation of biases against menstruating women have gone on to deny them the constitutionally guaranteed right to equality.


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