Rift within Devaswom Board over Sabarimala

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A rift within the Travancore Devaswom Board surfaced on Thursday after the chief of the panel that runs the Sabarimala temple in Kerala claimed that the body’s commissioner had misrepresented the organisation’s stance in court. On Wednesday, the board’s commissioner had told the court that it would respect its September 28 verdict allowing women of menstruating age to enter the shrine.

Travancore Devaswom Board’s Commissioner N Vasu’s stance on Wednesday was a U-turn from its earlier position where it had opposed the entry of women. The top court on Wednesday reserved its judgement on a batch of review petitions filed on the matter.

The temple traditionally banned women of menstruating age from entering its premises. 

The board’s chief, A Padmakumar, said he has asked Vasu to explain his actions. “Our counsel got only three minutes when the review petitions were taken up [in the Supreme Court] on Wednesday,” Padmakumar told reporters in Pathanamthitta. “We are yet to know what had actually happened in the court.”

Vasu, however, said he only told the court what the board had decided. “The Board had already made it clear that it was bound to abide by the Supreme Court verdict,” Vasu said. “The same stand was repeated in the apex court Wednesday also.”

The commissioner also refuted queries about whether he had received any communication from the board’s chief on the matter. “There is no circumstance at present to seek any explanation over the matter,” Vasu said. “But I will be meeting him soon to brief the developments in the court.”

The commissioner claimed the board had only sought more time to be able to comply with the top court’s verdict.

The temple body had told a five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, that it was high time that a particular class not be discriminated on the ground of “biological attributes”.

Meanwhile, Kerala Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala demanded Padmakumar’s resignation because of the change in stance. “TDB president has been wavering right from the beginning over the matter,” Chennithala said. “First he said review petition would be filed which was changed after allegedly being threatened by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.” The Opposition leader claimed that the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led state government and the board had neglected the sentiments of the devotees.

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