Kerala MP wants Sabirmala SC verdict overturned, moves Private Member Bill
The draft Bill claims that the judgement of the Supreme Court on Sabarimala issue is a breach of Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution, meaning a violation of the freedom to practise any religion and to set up and run religious institutions.
Sabiramala temple issue has been a major campaign point during the Lok Sabha elections in Kerala. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) rallied support around it in its favour and earned sterling results in the state by opposing the Supreme Court judgement on the issue.
Now one of Kerala’s UDF Members of Parliament has moved a Private Member Bill in the Lok Sabha seeking a law to overturn the Supreme Court verdict on Sabirimala. The draft Bill if taken up for consideration will become the first Private Member Bill of the Seventeenth Lok Sabha.
The apex court in a majority judgement last year ruled that denial of entry to women in the age group between 10 to 50 years in one of nation’s foremost pilgrimage destinations Sabarimala in Kerala as part of tradition and custom was a violation of fundamental rights of an individual.
The Bill will be tabled in Lok Sabha by Revolutionary Socialist Party's (RSP) MP N K Premachandran from Kerala. RSP, formerly a constituent of the Left front in Kerala, is now allied with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). Premachandran is a four-term MP and his Bill is slated to be taken up on Friday for discussion, the day set apart in the Lok Sabha for consideration of Bills moved by individual members.
Premachandran’s party RSP and other constituents of the UDF in Kerala had opposed the Supreme Court verdict and made it a campaign issue against the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala. The Congress’ central leadership has been non-committal on their stand on the issue.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the draft of the Bill moved by Kerala MP Premachandran argues that the change in custom without taking into confidence the special class of devotees of Sabarimala temple was not as per constitutional provisions. The draft Bill claims that the judgement of the Supreme Court on the issue is a breach of Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution, meaning a violation of the freedom to practise any religion and the right to set up and run religious institutions. The Supreme Court is currently dealing with the review petitions in the case.
Any Member of Parliament who is not a Minister is referred to as a private member. The provision of a Private Member Bill in the legislative process underlines the fact that both the government and opposition members can contribute to the lawmaking process in the country. Bills introduced by the Ministers are referred to as government bills and are passed by the cabinet before being introduced in Parliament. The purpose of the Private Member Bill is mostly to draw the attention of the nation to a pressing issue which needs legislative backing.
Even the treasury benches may find it difficult to oppose the Bill introduced by Premachandran. For, the ruling BJP has been supportive of such an ordinance to reverse the SC judgement. However, the last time a Private Member Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament was in 1970. In independent India, 14 such Bills moved by private members have gone on to become Acts. Five of them originated in the Rajya Sabha.