This is one of the multiple landmark judgments the Supreme court has passed this week before Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra's retirement on October 2. Women can not be discriminated on the basis of merely being born as women.
Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone dissenting judge and the only woman judge in the five-judge bench, said, "religious practices can not exclusively be tested on the basis of the right to equality".
"Your (intervener) right to pray being a woman, is equal to that of a man and it is not dependent on a law to enable you to do that", observed Justice Chandrachud.
Hindu pilgrims queue outside the Sabarimala Temple to offer prayers to the Hindu deity "Ayappa", about 70 kms (43 miles) west of the town Pathanamthtta in the southern Indian state of Kerala, on January 15, 2003.
Kandaru Rajeevaru, the head priest of Sabarimala, said: "We are disappointed but accept the Supreme Court verdict on women entry".
The temple prohibits entry of women who are in their menstruating years. "The ban says presence of women deviates from celibacy".
He went on to say, "Practice of exclusion of women of 10-50 age group can not be regarded as essential religious practice". SC said that practice of exclusion can not be regarded as essential religious practice, and this custom is not backed by Article 25 and 26 of the constitution, which are related to the right of freedom to practice any religion and religious practices.
The revelation by Jayamala in June 2006 had kicked up a storm, as women in the 10-50 age group were barred from entering the temple. No physiological & biological factor can be given legitimacy if it doesn't pass the test of conditionality.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar said devotion can't be subject to gender discrimination, India Today reports.
During the hearing, the Supreme Court said "What applies to a man, applies to a woman". Discussions covering all aspects of women's entry to religious shrines have been held in the High Court and Supreme Court.
The top court's verdict would deal with the petitions filed by petitioners Indian Young Lawyers Association and others.
In a dissenting judgement, Justice Indu Malhotra said that it was not for courts to decide which religious practices are to be struck down except in cases of social evils like Sati.
"India is a country comprising of diverse religions, creeds, sects each of which have their faiths, beliefs, and distinctive practises".
"Issues of deep religious sentiments should not be ordinarily interfered by the court".
During the hearings in July and August, the Supreme Court itself remarked that the tradition was "steeped in chauvinism and patriarchy".