The Bombay High Court has asked Maharashtra government to ensure that women are not denied entry to any temple.
“There’s no law which prevents women from entering temples. Women should have equal access to places of worship,” the division bench of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice M S Sonak observed while hearing a public interest litigation challenging the century-old tradition of prohibiting entry of women inside the core shrine area of Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
Senior advocate Neelima Vartak and activist Vidya Bal have filed a PIL in the high court, arguing that such prohibition is arbitrary, illegal and in violation of fundamental rights of citizens.
“You have to ensure their access. Provisions in law already allow this. Nothing prevents women from entering. Police and collector will have to act against those preventing their entry,” the bench said.
The judges said wherever women are not allowed inside temples, the state will have to file cases for contravention of Section 3 of the Act, which says no Hindu shall in any manner be prevented from entering such place of public worship or from worshipping or offering prayers as any other Hindu.
It added that if men were granted entry to a place of worship, women should enjoy access too.
Women are not allowed to climb the platform of Shani Shingnapur temple on which the rock idol of Shani is installed.
The judges also said the offering of worship has to be made before the deity and not outside.
After the verdict, Trupti Desai of Bhumata Brigade, the activist organisation which started the movement of demanding women’s entry in the temple’s core shrine area, said she is elated and keeping its fingers crossed for the final judgment.
As per a 400-year-old tradition, women were not allowed to enter the Shani temple. After mass awareness campaigns, their entry was allowed in 2011, but they were prohibited from climbing the shrine platform.
On January 26, women activists who resolved to climb the platform and offer prayers were detained at Supa village, about 70 km from the temple, and later released.