Madhya Pradesh HC, Indore Bench on Friday rejected a PIL challenging restraint on women of the Digambar sect performing Abhishek of Jain deity, Bawangajaji. The Division Bench comprising of Justices SC Sharma and Shailendra Shukla held that right of a devotee to practice their religion under Article 25(1) would definitely be infringed as women touching the idol would result into changing the characteristic or nature of the Tirthankar. The practice of Abhishek has been exclusively carried out by men since time immemorial to ensure that the rules of Brahmacharya are adhered to.
“The Courts are certainly not meant to write the religious text, however, they are under an obligation to follow the religious text in the matter of cases dealing with religious dispute and to follow the old practices which are prevalent in religion so long as they do not violate constitutional rights of an individual.”
The petitioner, Aarsh Marg Seva Trust filed the said PIL with a specific prayer of allowing women to perform religious practices such as Abhishek of Bawangajaji without any discrimination. The Division Bench made due considerations to the Sabrimala judgment where it held that it was not a complete restriction on entry of women. The women were not barred from entering the temple premises and were allowed to do puja. However, the essential religious practice of Abhishek was permitted only to men.
It further stated that “The ‘throwing open’ to ‘all classes and sections of Hindus’ was intended to redress caste-based prejudices and injustices in society. Article 25(2)(b) cannot be interpreted to mean that customs and usages forming an essential part of the religion, are to be overridden. Article 25(2)(b) would have no application in the present case as there is no ban, but only a limited restriction during the notified period, based on faith, custom, and belief, which is being observed since time immemorial.”