A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which is hearing pleas challenging the bar on the entry of women of the particular age group into the over 800 year-old temple, commended lawyer Sai Deepak, who represented 'People for Dharma' and NGO 'Chetna' in the matter.
"Your arguments are impressive, I must admit that," Justice Misra observed.
The lawyer, who was initially granted 10-15 minutes time in the forenoon to put forth his submissions, argued for more than one-and-half hours without being asked by any of the judges to stop and was quick to respond to queries from the bench.
Arguing for the "constitutional right" of Lord Ayappa, he said the deity's will to remain celibate needed to be respected under Articles 21 (right to life and personal liberty) and 25(1) (freedom of religion) of the Constitution.
He also said evidence be called from both sides on the existence of the custom that women in that age group cannot enter the temple given the character of the deity.
The bench, however, said that it cannot remain "oblivious" of the fact that the entry of women in the age group of 10-50 was barred into the shrine on "physiological ground" of menstruation.
Senior advocate Kailasanatha Pillai, appearing for 'Ayyappa Seva Sangham', opposed the plea seeking entry of women into the temple and said he did not want "another Ayodhya in Kerala".
"Your lordships have to be very circumspect when exercising judicial review in matters of faith," he said.
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