New Delhi: The Supreme Court, that commenced hearing on Monday on issues related to discrimination against women at places of worship, including entry into Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple, directed lawyers appearing for different parties to hold a meeting to finalise issues pertaining to the matter. The nine-judge bench said issues related to essential religious practices, interplay between fundamental rights and faith, judicial review and other aspects will be considered by the bench.

The constitutional bench comprises Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices R Banumathi, S Abdul Nazeer, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageshwar Rao, BR Gavai, Surya Kant, R Subhash Reddy and Mohan M Shantangoudar. It said lawyers will conduct this meeting on 17 January and the Supreme Court secretary general will also attend the meeting.

Bobde added that the bench will not decide anything on the Sabarimala review petition but will deliberate on the larger issues pertaining to the matter. “We are not hearing the review petition. Only sticking to the larger issues.”

The issues should be decided within three weeks. “The counsels will decide amongst themselves what issues to be argued by whom,” said Bobde.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on 14 November had asked a larger bench to examine various religious issues, including the entry of women into Sabarimala and mosques and other places of worship, and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The same bench had given a 3:2 split verdict on petitions seeking a review of the apex court’s September 2018 order which allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala.

The majority verdict had decided to keep pending the pleas seeking a review of its decision regarding entry of women into Sabarimala, and said restrictions on women in religious places was not restricted to Sabarimala alone and was prevalent in other religions as well.

Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud, who also comprised the five-judge bench, were in favour of dismissing all review pleas and called for directing compliance of its September 28 decision.

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