Pinarayi Vijayan to consult legal experts to resolve Ayyappa temple issue
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said though the Supreme Court has not stayed its September 28 decision, permitting all women to offer prayers at the hill shrine at Sabarimala, his government would take a final call on the issue after consulting legal experts.
Speaking to reporters here, Vijayan said the state the government would take legal advice on the matter. "As per my understanding, the top court has clearly stated that there is no stay on its September 28 verdict. We will consult legal experts on the matter", Vijayan said when asked if the verdict would be implemented during the Mandala Makaravillakku pilgrim season, starting on November 17.
Tantri Kandararu Rajeevaru Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court decision to hear the review petitions and hailed it as a "big victory" as the outcome was due to the blessings of Lord Ayyappa.
"The blessings of Lord Ayyappa and prayers of lots of devotees are behind this decision to hear the matter in the open court", beaming Tantritold reporters.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Congress and the BJP welcomed the apex court verdict to hear the review petitions. Opposition leader in the Kerala assembly Ramesh Chennithala wanted the state government to shed its 'stubbornness' in implementing the September 28 verdict. "The CPI(M)-led LDF government should act maturely and not implement the decision during the upcoming two-month long pilgrim season," he told reporters at Sabarimala.
It was only the Congress party, through former Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan, which moved the apex court against the Sabarimala verdict, Chennithala said.
"We welcome the apex court's decision to hear the review petition in open court. Though there is no stay, the government must act maturely and not implement the order, allowing entry of women," he said.
BJP state President P S Sreedharan Pillai, who undertook a rath yatra from Kasargod in north Kerala to Pathanamthitta, where Sabarimala is situated, to 'protect' the Lord Ayyappa temple's traditions described the apex court decision as a 'good step.'
"We accept the spirit of today's Supreme Court decision," he said. CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the government would implement whatever decision the apex court takes on the issue of women's entry into the hilltop shrine.
"We are waiting for details of the apex court's decision. The Chief Minister had earlier declared that whatever decision the apex court takes, it will be implemented. The government will evaluate the situation and take an appropriate decision", he said.
The apex court had taken the decision to allow entry of women into Sabarimala after considering the Constitutional aspects, Balakrishnan told reporters here. He also said that his party would observe November 26 as "Constitution protection day".
The Supreme Court Tuesday refused to stay its verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple, but agreed to hear in open court on January 22, a batch of review petitions in the matter.
The review petitions against the September 28 verdict were taken up 'in-chamber' by a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
"All the review petitions along with all pending applications will be heard in Open Court on 22nd January 2019 before the appropriate Bench. We make it clear that there is no stay of the judgement and order of this Court dated 28th September 2018 passed in Writ Petition (Civil) No.373 of 2006 (Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. vs.the State of Kerala & Ors)," the order said. In the in-chamber proceedings, the judges examine the review petitions by circulation and lawyers are not present.
There are around 50 petitions seeking review of the judgement. On September 28, a five-judge constitution bench, headed by the Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict, had paved the way for the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala Temple, saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination.
Meanwhile, a high-level meeting chaired by the Chief Minister, reviewed the facilities at Sabarimala, where the two-month pilgrim season will commence from November 17.
An official press release said that the temporary accommodation facilities for devotees at Pamba, Nilackal and other places were nearing completion. Steps had also been taken to provide free meals to devotees at resting places en route to the shrine.
Steps had also been taken to provide more facilities at Chengannur, where a lot of devotees, who reach by train, arrive, it said. The Kerala Water Authority has completed all arrangements to provide safe drinking water to the pilgrims, the release said.
(With inputs from agencies.)