The exchange came on the third day of hearing, by a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Misra, of petitions challenging the prohibition on women aged 10 to 50 from entering Sabarimala. The petitioners claim that the prohibition amounts to discrimination and another abolished social evil, untouchability.

Mr. Singhvi submitted that Sabarimala does not practise exclusion. People from all walks of life and from every creed, caste and religion enter and offer their prayers in the temple. He submitted that it was also physiologically impossible for women to observe the 41-day penance before the pilgrimage.

He reiterated that the restriction finds its source in the legend that the Sabarimala temple deity – Swami Ayyappa – is a Naishtika Brahmachari.

The Kerala government stood firm in its support for allowing women entry into the temple. Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta submitted that such customs come within the ambit of Article 13 and should not violate any fundamental rights.

Amicus curiae and senior advocate Raju Ramachandran said submitted that Article 17 (abolition of untouchability) extends to exclusions on the basis of such bodily “impurity.” At one point, Justice Indu Malhotra, on the Bench, said there is a temple in Kerala where men are not allowed.

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