The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a plea filed by a Hindu Mahasabha leader for allowing Muslim women’s entry into mosques and ban the ‘purdah system’. The Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said that, “let the Mulsim women come.” The Bench junked the plea saying the Hindu Mahasabha was not an affected party. The petitioner, Swamy Dethathreya Sai Swaroop Nath, is the President of the Kerala unit of the Akhil Bharath Hindu Mahasabha. He had also prayed that the ‘Purdah’ system, which requires Muslim women to cover their face, be banned.
Earlier in April, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear a petition seeking permission for Muslim women to enter mosques to offer prayers. A bench headed by Justice SA Bobde issued notice to the Centre and asked it to respond to the plea filed by a Pune-based couple. The bench told the counsel appearing for the petitioner that it will hear the matter because of the apex court's judgment in the case involving Kerala's Sabarimala temple. "The only reason we may hear you is because of our judgment in the Sabarimala temple case," the bench said.
“This is not a person. The board takes benefits from the State, takes money from State, says petitioner. “Can a fundamental right to equality be asserted against another Human Being/ individual, asks Justice Bobde. “Will Article 14 apply to individual and can you claim equality of treatment from another human being,” Justice Bobde added.
The petitioners, Yasmeen Zuber Ahmad Peerzade and Zuber Ahmad Nazir Ahmad Peerzade, in their writ petition prayed for a direction against the Union of India and others for declaring the practices of prohibition of entry of Muslim Women in Mosque in India as illegal, unconstitutional for being violative of Articles 14, 15, 21, 25 and 29 of the Constitution. They had said the persons affected by such acts of the State are numerous and are not in a position to approach the Court hence the petitioners are filing the present PIL on behalf of such affected persons.
They said they had written to the Mohmdiya Jama Masjid, Bopodi, Pune, and Imam to allow them to enter mosque. They had responded stating that no practice of entry of women in mosque is permitted in Pune and other areas. Hence the present petition seeking court intervention to remove the gender discrimination.
In a landmark verdict on September 28, 2018, the Supreme Court granted women of all ages the right to enter the Sabarimala temple, reversing the Kerala shrine’s tradition of barring girls and women of menstruating age—10-50 years. The verdict was passed by 4:1 majority by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and judges DY Chanrachud, AM Khanwilkar, RF Nariman and Indu Malhotra, the sole woman on the bench and the author of a dissenting opinion.
Recognizing that banning women from entering the temple was derogatory to them, Khanwilkar on behalf of himself and Misra said: “Morality cannot be viewed with a narrow lens so as to confine the sphere of definition of morality to what an individual, a section or religious sect may perceive the term to mean.
“Patriarchy in religion cannot be permitted to trump over the element of pure devotion born out of faith and the freedom to practise and profess one’s religion." The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, had justified the restriction saying the ban had a “historical origin" as the entry of women and girls of menstruating age was antithetical to the “Naishtika Brahmachari" (celibate) nature of the deity.
(With agency inputs)
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