Mumbai: Women can no longer be barred from entering temples in Maharashtra with the Bombay High Court Friday holding that it is their fundamental right to go into places of worship and the government’s duty to protect this right.
In directions that are seen as a break from centuries-old traditions and a victory for women’s campaign against gender bias, the court asked the Maharashtra government to take pro-active steps to ensure that this right was not allowed to be encroached upon by any authority.
A division bench of Chief Justice DH Waghela and Justice MS Sonak gave the directions 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 Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra. The PIL sought implementation of the provisions of Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act 1956.
The Maharashtra government has said it would take all steps to comply with the order by enforcing the law that provides six months in prison for preventing anyone from entering a temple.
Activist Trupti Desai, heading the campaign for gender equality in temples, welcomed the decision and said she and her followers would head to Shani Shingnapur Saturday itself.
Following critical remarks from the high court two days ago, the state government told the court that it was completely against gender discrimination and would implement the Act.
“The provisions of the Act shall be scrupulously implemented. The government is completely against gender discrimination. A circular or directive shall be issued to all district authorities informing them about the Act and its provisions,” acting advocate general Rohit Deo told the court.