January 2020
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Kerala: Mixed response to SC Sabarimala verdict
New Delhi: Political parties and Hindu outfits in Kerala have given mixed reaction to the Supreme Court on Thursday deciding to set up a larger bench to reexamine religious issues including those arising out of its 2018 verdict that lifted a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age visiting the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple.

While leaders of the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala said the rule of law should prevail and last year's SC verdict respected, the main opposition party in the state, the Congress-led United Democratic Front, claimed the judgement was its victory as the apex court did not reject its petition challenging women's (aged 10-50) entry.

CPI (M) politburo member Brinda Karat, whose party is leading the LDF in Kerala, told PTI, "Our stand is clear that the women should have their right to equality in religious, social and political spheres. We stand on our principles that they should enjoy their rights in public places including temples."

The SC bench, without giving any relief sought by the petitioners, referred the matter to the seven-judge bench to decide.

"Though the final decision may be delayed let us wait for it", Karat said.

CPI general secretary D Raja, whose party too is a part of LDF in Kerala, said since there was no stay on the 2018 SC verdict, the status quo will continue (giving legal rights for entry of all women) and the elected LDF government in Kerala would uphold the rule of law and respect the SC order.

"The CPI would wait for the SC's final decision", he said.

Senior Congress leader and former MP from Thrissur (Kerala) P C Chacko said it was a victory for the Congress in Kerala, which filed a review petition in SC, as the court did not reject its petition but referred it to a larger bench.

"We welcome the judgment as we stand vindicated with this order" as the party had been reiterating that judiciary should not intervene in the matters relating to religious and places of worship traditions, culture and customs.

The party was happy that the SC had "more or less accepted" the Congress' stand, Chacko said.

All India Sabarimala Action Council general secretary S J R Kumar said it was a "path breaking" verdict as the court had considered most of the arguments and pleas of review petitions. The Action Council would continue its fight and challenge the last year's verdict allowing women of all age group to the temple.

Though there were 3,000 Ayyappa temples in the country "there is only one Sabarimala for Ayyappa" where according to religious belief, customs and traditions menstruating women were not allowed as "the presiding deity is a celibate yogi".

The SC's split decision came on as many as 65 petitions -- including 56 review petitions and four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas -- which were filed after last year's SC verdict witnessed violent protests in Kerala.

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