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Sabarimala: HC terms protests against apex court order 'unjustifiable'

  • 8 November 2018

The Kerala High Court Thursday termed as "unjustifiable" agitations launched by various groups against the Supreme Court verdict permitting entry of women of all age groups into the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.

Justice Sunil Thomas agreed with the state government's contention that the protests and the violence that occurred recently at the hill shrine and its key entry points were against the apex court's directives.

"Agitations are unjustifiable," the court said while dismissing a bail application filed by Govind Madhusoodan of Thrippunithura, who was arrested in connection with clashes with police at Nilackal, near Pamba, when the temple doors were opened for monthly puja last month.

"Agitations caused serious hardships to the devotees. If bail is granted in such cases, that may lead to repetition of similar incidents," the court said.

He was arrested for allegedly blocking vehicles at Nilackal and attempting to assault women devotees.

Girls below 10 years and women above 50 have frequently prayed at the Lord Ayyappa temple in the past. However, the entry of women of all age groups has become a sensitive issue after the September 28 apex court verdict.

Several journalists were attacked by devotees when the temple was opened for six days on October 17 for the first time after the SC order.

Attempts by around a dozen women, including activists and journalists in the 10-50 age group, to script history came to nought as protests by devotees forced them to retreat.

On November 6, around 200 devotees tried to prevent a woman pilgrim from entering the hilltop shrine, suspecting her to be of menstrual age, and allegedly attacked a cameraman of a Malayalam television news channel.

Both the Congress, the main opposition party in Kerala, and the BJP, which is desperately seeking to expand its footprint in the state, have lent support to the agitation against the Supreme Court verdict.

Meanwhile, a division bench refused to entertain a plea filed by former Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) president Prayar Gopalakrishnan against board member K P Sankardas, who, the petitioner alleged, had violated the hill temple's custom.

The bench of justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar said the petitioner could approach a proper forum to seek relief.

Gopalakrishnan had moved the court Wednesday, seeking removal of Sankardas, alleging that he had violated the customs of the Sabarimala temple recently.

In his plea, Gopalakrishnan had alleged that on November 5, Sankardas climbed the holy 18 steps (sacred steps) without the "Irumudikettu" (offerings carried by devotees for the deity) in violation of temple customs.

The TDB manages the Sabarimala shrine.