Section 377, Sabarimala temple case, Lokpal on Supreme Court’s agenda this week

Decades-old practice in Kerala’s famed Sabarimala temple of restricting entry of women aged between 10 and 50 – the menstrual age – will come under judicial scrutiny this week with the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra expected to start this week hearing of the petitions demanding lifting of the ban.

The matter will begin once hearing in the section 377 case gets over on Tuesday. Last week the CJI had indicated the bench’s intention to wrap up hearing of the petitions to declare the British-era penal law as ultra vires that treats adults of the same sex indulging in consensual sexual acts as a crime and provides for life-term jail for those who are found guilty of the act.

The question before the court in the Sabarimala case is whether the fundamental right of women to pray at the place of their choice can be discriminated against solely based “on a biological factor exclusive to female gender”.

The Supreme Court will also take up another case highlighting the need to preserve a woman’s bodily integrity. CJI’s bench is likely to give finality to petitions by an advocate and women of Muslim Bohra community, who have called for a ban of Female Genital Mutilation, ages-old religious practice.

During a hearing last week the court had backed the ban after Centre said it was a crime. Justice DY Chandrachud said touching of genitals violated one’s privacy and no one should be allowed to do so in the name of religious practice. Centre will have to this week inform the Supreme Court on how much time will it take to appoint the much-delayed country’s first Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman.

A bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on July 2 asked for the timeframe after Attorney General KK Venugopal said the Lokpal Selection Committee headed by Prime Minister would meet soon. As Venugopal referred to certain section of the letter he received, the bench said: “We would like the officer concerned to say on affidavit whatever he wants to say.”

Court will also give a decision on realty firm Japyee Infrastructure Limited’s (JIL) offer to let its parent company, Jaypee Associates Limited (JAL) complete construction of flats so that possession can be handed to buyers awaiting their houses. SC is hearing petitions against the insolvency proceedings that began against JIL.

However, after the failure of proceedings the court is exploring at options to provide relief to homebuyers. It has already directed Jaypee to deposit Rs 600 crore, which the company offered to pay in instalments by August, a suggestion the court was not ready to accept. The Supreme Court will also hear a PIL on ban of sale of fire-crackers. After it stopped sale of crackers in the capital before last Diwali, the court was approached by the three toddlers to impose the ban all over the country to control rising pollution levels.

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