September 29, 2018
9 months

The recent Supreme Court ruling on Sabarimala Temple entry case establishes the legal principle that individual freedom prevails over purported group rights, even in matters of religion. Discuss (200 words)

Refer – The Hindu

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IAS Parliament 9 months


·         The Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship Rules, 1965 banned women between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the Sabarimala temple.

·         The Sabarimala temple case represented a conflict between the two

1.       the group rights of the temple authorities in enforcing the presiding deity’s strict celibate status

2.      the individual rights of women in 10-50 age group to offer worship there

·         Traditionally, to resolve such issues, the Supreme Court has relied on the “essential religious practice” doctrine.

·         The SC has applied this doctrine in this case also and concludes that the ban was not an essential practice of the Hindu religion and struck down the discriminatory rule.

·         Historically, such exclusionary policies have been defended as extensions of faith, being rooted in culture and tradition.

·         But favouring the autonomy of the group over that of an individual would endanger the rights of socially subordinate members.

·         The SC said that the fundamental rights claimed by worshippers based on ‘custom and usage’ must yield to the fundamental right of women to practise religion.

·         It would be impossible to conceive of the preservation of liberal constitutional values while at the same time allowing group rights to defy those values.

·         It thus established the primacy of individual freedom over group rights.

·         In the past, the Supreme Court in its judgment on section 377 clearly mentions that the social morality cannot trump constitutional morality.

·         Here, through the Sabarimala case it again establishes the legal principle that individual freedom prevails over purported group rights, this time even in matters of religion.