Written byShalini Ojha ·
A nine-judge constitutional bench, that was formed to hear pleas on religious discrimination faced by women, will not hear the matter for more than ten days, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde announced on Tuesday.
Lord Ayyappa's coveted Sabarimala Temple banned menstruating women from praying, until 2018, when a bench led by the then CJI Dipak Misra allowed them to enter.
Subsequently, the issue fell upon CJI Bobde, who said Sabrimala wasn't the only concern.
Headed by CJI Bobde, the nine-judge bench includes — Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, Mohan M Shantanagoudar, S Abdul Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant. It was consciously decided to not have judges, who had signed 2018's order, onboard.
The five-judge bench that felt unequipped to deal with the issue had raised questions about women's discrimination.
It noted that Muslim women aren't allowed inside durgah/mosque, and Parsi women aren't permitted into the holy fireplace of an Agiari after marrying non-Parsi men.
Female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community was also touched upon, after which the bench sought the intervention of a constitutional one.
One of the questions that the five-judge bench asked was: Clarify the interplay between the freedom of religion under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution and other provisions in Part III, particularly Article 14.
While another one was: Are the "essential religious practices" of a religious denomination, or even a section thereof, afforded constitutional protection under Article 26?
The apex court also wondered to which extent can a court inquire about a practice being an integral part of the religion. "Should that be left exclusively to be determined by the head of the section of the religious group?" the five-judge-bench asked.
This month, the new bench led by Justice Bobde clarified that it will not be discussing review petitions of Sabarimala verdict, but take up larger matters.
The bench had granted all parties three weeks' time to file suggestions and frame questions, that it would want to be answered.
A meeting of lawyers should be convened on January 17, the top court ordered.
Today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said lawyers who participated in the meeting couldn't reach a consensus. Neither could they make up their mind on the division of issues nor on time to be allotted to them.
"We could not finalize common questions for consideration of my lords. The Supreme Court can consider framing the questions," Mehta told the bench.
Asking Mehta to show details about the issues lawyers concerned themselves with, the bench, also including justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said, "It (the hearing) cannot take more than 10 days. Even if someone wants more time, it cannot be given."
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