Four months after it allowed women of reproductive age into the Sabarimala temple, the court today began hearing review petitions challenging its September verdict. A batch of over 60 petitions will be heard by a five-judge constitution bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The Sabarimala case was earlier scheduled for January 22 but had to be postponed as Justice Indu Malhotra, one of the judges on the panel, was on medical leave. Justice Malhotra, the only woman judge on the bench, had dissented with the verdict in September, saying courts must not interfere with issues concerning “deep religious sentiments”.
The verdict had set off massive street protests in Kerala. The annual pilgrimage season saw violent protests as devotees of Lord Ayyappa, the celibate god, tried to stop women and girls between the ages of 10 and 50 years from entering the shrine.
One of the two women who eventually managed to enter the temple in January was even attacked allegedly by her mother-in-law.
The issue has also triggered a political slugfest between Kerala’s CPM and the opposition parties, including the BJP and the Congress.
Justice Indu Malhotra is one of the three women judges in the Supreme Court – a first since Independence. Month of April she became the first senior woman advocate to be directly appointed as a judge to the Supreme Court.
A decade earlier, Ms. Malhotra was the second woman lawyer to be appointed as senior advocate by the Supreme Court, 3 decades after the first, Justice Leila Seth, was designated.
Before her appointment as Supreme Court Justice, Indu Malhotra had practiced law for three decades – she specializes in arbitration and has appeared in various domestic and international commercial arbitrations.
A second generation lawyer, Justice Indu Malhotra was born in 1956 in Bengaluru. She went to school in Delhi and obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the renowned Lady Shri Ram College in Political Science, and later did her Masters in Political Science from Delhi University, according to the Supreme Court website. She started her career as an Advocate in 1983 when she enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi.