Why the Shani Temple Judgement is a Dangerous Precedent


Recently the Mumbai High Court ruled that it is illegal to bar the entry of women in to the Shani Temple. While on the face of it, this judgement seems to be a step forward in gender equality; in truth the ruling has set a dangerous precedent. This ruling is a dangerous step in to religious affairs by an entity who, by its very nature, must work on a canvas much larger than the constraint of a small set of believers. The ruling is a direct intervention by the state in deciding how individuals must understand their religious beliefs.

A religious space is a personal space – it belongs to the believers of that religion. Believers must have the space to understand and read their religions in a free manner. If the devotees who worship at the Shani temple believe that women should not enter their place of worship, they should be welcome to their belief. People (male or female) who do not believe or agree with that belief should walk away. There is no better way to vote than with one’s feet.

If the court’s ruling were on a secular space such as a workplace or a public space, it would be perfect. But in this case, the courts have intruded on a space that should be out of bounds to state intervention. By passing this ruling, the courts have intruded on the personal religious beliefs of a set of people and made their beliefs illegal. This is a dangerous precedent and must be stopped.

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