The Bombay High Court refused to give urgent hearing on an application filed by an activist seeking recall of its earlier order holding that it was a woman’s fundamental right to enter any place of worship and the state government’s duty to protect this right.
On April 1, a division bench headed by Chief Justice D H Waghela observed that women have the fundamental right to enter any place of worship where men too are allowed, and it was the government’s duty to ensure that this right was protected.
The court had also ordered the state government to ensure strict implementation of the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act 1956.
The directions were given while hearing a public interest litigation by senior advocate Nilima Vartak and social activist Vidya Bal, challenging prohibition of entry of women in temples, like the Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra.
Today, an application was filed before the same bench by an activist from Thane district, Sunita Pal, seeking recall of the April 1 order of the high court on the grounds that the court has misconstrued the Act and its provisions.
Pal’s advocate Subash Jha told the court that the Act was not meant for gender discrimination and is not even remotely connected to the issues raised in the PIL.
“The Act was formed post Independence for Dalits and others from Scheduled Caste so that there is no discrimination against them. If gender discrimination was the issue behind forming the Act, then the legislation would have specifically mentioned ‘women’ in the Act,” Jha argued.
The high court today, however, said before going to the merits of the application it would have to first decide if such an application is maintainable.
“You (Pal) have filed application in a petition in which you (Pal) are not even a party,” Chief Justice Waghela said while posting the application for hearing on April 11.