Current Status of Sabarimala Judgment

Current Status of Sabarimala Judgment

The September 2018 judgment, which declared the prohibition of the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple as discriminatory was referred for a review but the issue was deviated when instead the Bench further referred seven questions, including whether essential religious practices should be afforded constitutional protection under Article 26 that guarantees freedom to manage religious affairs, to a larger Bench.

What is the contention with reference to larger bench?

The two counter opinions on the issue are as follows:

  • Review jurisdiction is rare and limited. The task of a review Bench is only to ascertain that there is no apparent error or gross miscarriage of justice in the original judgment.
  • The Sabarimala case had its genesis in public interest petitions. It was not an in personam (affecting a specific person) litigation. In a case emanating from a PIL, there is no restraint on a constitutional court in extending the scope or questions to be examined

What is a review jurisdiction?

Article 137 of the Constitution of India, 1950, provides that subject to provisions of any law and rules made under Article 145, the Supreme Court has the power to review any judgment pronounced or order made by it.

Under Supreme Court Rules, 1966 such a petition is to be filed within thirty days from the date of judgment or order

As far as practicable it is to be circulated, without oral arguments, to the same Bench of Judges who delivered the judgment.

The word “Review” in legal parlance connotes a judicial re-examination of the case.

Therefore, in order to rectify an error and prevent the gross miscarriage of justice, a provision for review has been laid down under Section 114 of the Code of Civil Procedure which gives a substantive right of review and Order XLVII there under provides for the procedure.

What is Constitution Bench?

A Constitution Bench is a bench of the Supreme Court having five or more judges on it. These benches are not a regular phenomenon.

The Constitution bench is constituted if:

  1. The case involves a substantial question of law pertaining to the interpretation of the Constitution.
  2. The President of India has sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on a question of fact or law under Article 143 of the Constitution
  3. Two or more three-judge benches of the Supreme Court have delivered conflicting judgments on the same point of law, thus warranting a definitive pronouncement by a larger bench
  4. A later three-judge bench doubts the correctness of a judgment delivered by a previous three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, and decides to refer the case to a larger bench for a reconsideration of that earlier judgment.

Presently, Constitution Benches are set up on an ad hoc basis as and when the need arises.

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