#Exclusive Sabarimala Case: Petitioners Say They Stand with Women Devotees, Respect Their Sentiments
         Date: 01-Aug-2018
Speaking to Organiser, three of the five petitioners Adv Prerna Kumari, Adv Sudha Pal and Adv Lakshmi Shastri said that they did not have a better understanding of the customs or Tantric traditions being practised at the Sabarimala temple when they signed the petition



On the eight day of the hearing, today a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the counsels of both sides to compile the submissions and submit before the court within seven days. With hearing being concluded today evening, one of the five petitioners in the case, Adv Prerna Kumari revealed to Organiser that she respects the sentiments of the women devotees of Sabarimala who are ready to wait till they turn 50 years. With two other petitioners Adv Sudha Pal and Adv Lakshmi Shastri also sharing the same views, three of the five petitioners have now expressed their solidarity with the cause which the women devotees of Lord Ayyappa stand for.

Speaking to Organiser, Adv Prerna Kumari said that she did not have a better understanding of the customs or Tantric traditions being practised at the Sabarimala temple when she signed the petition. "At that time, I just considered the issue as a matter of gender bias. Later, I came to know about the real sentiments of women devotees following a group of Hindu women launched a social media campaign with #ReadyToWait campaign," she said.
"We were under the impression that the Travancore Dewaswom Board had banned women from entering the Sabarimala temple premises but women were willing to go to the temple to offer their puja, as it was highlighted in the news that one of the south Indian actress Jaimala visited the temple and a purification ritual was performed at the temple after her visit," the petitioners Prerna Kumari and Sudha Pal said.
 
According to both petitioners, this triggered them to approach the court as they felt that the ladies of the concerned state are willing to visit the temple, but they are not allowed.
"It primarily emanated from our ignorance about the diversity of Sanatana Dharma. As we have diverse customs and rituals here, the age-old traditions and beliefs must be prevailed in Sabarimala," Adv Prerna said.
"Later on it came to light that the impression which was given to me was not the factual position and a large number of ladies are supporting the rituals, and they are ready to wait," Prerna Kumari added.
"Many people still ask us as to ‘Why we filed the petition challenging the ban on entry of a particular age group of women in Lord Ayyappa temple, Sabarimala before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India?’ In fact, some friends from Kerala told us that it had hurt the sentiments of some of them. We never wanted to hurt sentiments of anyone nor do we want to shake anybody’s faith. What triggered us to file this petition in 2006 was a particular incident (Jayamala Controversy) which was flashed all over in Media. In 2006, it was reported by many newspapers and the electronic media that a south Indian actress Jayamala visited the Sabarimala temple and therefore purification of the temple was carried out. Consequently, the petition was filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India," the petitioners maintained.
On being asked about the possibility of withdrawal of the case, she said that she wanted to withdraw herself from the petition if time permitted. "I was not a member of the Indian Young Lawyers AssociationI. I wanted to withdraw the case but, by the time I got a complete picture of the issue, it was too late to withdraw myself from the petition. But once I understood the reality, I refrained from making public statements or participating in any debates related to this issue," she said.
Registering a firm disagreement with the malicious attempts to divert the issue as anti-Hindu, she said, "I have nothing to do with Happy to Bleed group who joined the case later in 2016. I am totally against the group and their campaign," Prerna Kumari clarified. She said that they were taking a stand for the women and then she found that ladies are in support of their rituals. "So my statement is that I am in support of women in large and I stand with them," she said.

Others including Adv Indira Jaisingh intervened the case once the issue drew national attention following Happy to Bleed campaign which eventually turned out to be anti-Hindu hurting religious sentiments of practising Hindu women. As an intervenor, Indra Jai Singh submitted that the validity of custom has to be tested on basis of Article 13. "Her submissions was on the basis of discrimination 'only' on the ground of sex, violating Article 15 and she argued that a practise is a form of untouchability," Prerna said.
"We are glad that a comprehensive debate has taken place on the issue and the Hon’ble Supreme Court gave an opportunity of hearing to each and every person who wanted to express his views on the matter. The issue has been deliberated threadbare over the last 15 days. We will welcome the judgement of the Hon’ble Court," both the petitioners added.
“We will pass orders. Judgment reserved. Hearing concluded. Advocate on Record of both the sides will collect written submissions and compile it and submit before the court in seven days,” the bench also comprising justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra said today.
Interestingly, the Kerala government has repeatedly changed its stand on the issue of women of a particular age group entering the Sabarimala temple, since the issue came before the apex court. However, on July 18, the Government told the Supreme Court that it favours the entry of women of all age groups to the shrine.