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Sabarimala Temple row: Justice and power
The quest for justice is a slippery slope. We think that this is something only to be administered in courts, by wise judges after listening to arguments presented by learned advocates. But the truth is more complicated than that as we can see from the vehement public outcry against the Supreme Court judgment allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple.

At one level, women have been given the justice they sought and the court delivered a judgment based on the constitution and the principles of gender equality. In a dissenting judgment however, Justice Indu Malhotra had speculated about the wisdom of the courts getting involved in matters of faith and religion and had opined that these matters ought to be resolved through dialogue and community consensus. She had murmured that these might have unforeseen consequences.

Sure enough, within days of the Sabarimala judgment, someone from the Muslim community approached the courts asking for courts to direct mosques to admit women. Although no one from the Christian community has approached the courts yet, there have been murmurs that matters like women not being ordained should be referred to the courts for adjudication.  And there lies the dilemma.  People of all religious traditions that their practices have been in place for centuries and in general have broad public acceptance and cannot be resolved by judges who may not be even fully conversant with the practices involved, let alone the finer nuances of tradition and custom that make up the social fabric.

Religion is a very good example of how those who control the power structures in society deny rights to that want and demand them in the same of preserving the social fabric and social continuity.  Even when a judgment is delivered that can be called progressive, the implementation of the same is sought to be subverted by mobilizing people who are mobilized into lumpen mobs and who are obviously not amenable to any logic. The administration of justice is rendered impotent in the face of raw muscle power.

Often we think of the poor alone as living outside the protection of the law, but as recent developments tell us that the educated and the articulate are also vulnerable and perhaps power is actually a relative term. Justice Markendya Katju, while referring to the #MeToo movement called it a middle class led movement and perhaps derisively so, but the survivors tumbling out of the woodwork are all middle class and educated women; the kind you would think could and would be able to fight for their rights.  But they weren't and for all these years, as power and influence are not just exercised through formal positions and hierarchies, but through often enough dotted line hierarchies which remain undisturbed even though the formal positional power dynamic may have changed.

The UN inspired sustainable development goals fondly talk of a world where Access to Justice becomes a reality by 2030 or before. India has signed off on this global commitment to make this happen in India.  It is already the end of 2018.  There is a lot of work to be done by 2030.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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