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Supreme Court of India Upholds Dress Code Change in Guruvayur Temple

The Supreme Court of India upheld the dress code change in the Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple in Kerala initiated by the temple administration. Guruvayur Devaswom Board, the temple administration, had decided to allow churidar-clad women into the temple. This decision was challenged in the Supreme Court by a devotee.

The petitioner challenged the temple administration’s decision to change the dress code by stating that saris had been customarily worn for hundreds of years and that the Guruvayur Devaswom Board had no right to interfere in such matters and it was the prerogative of the Thantri (chief priest) to decide on dress code. The petitioner also stated that the sari is the only dress code which prevents exhibitionism in public. It is apprehended that the nod for the churidar is the first step towards loosening of rules and regulations at the temple.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan rejected the appeal stating that the dress code has to change with the time, with change in practices as long as it is not violative of the public standards of morality. The court also observed that wearing churidars by a devotee cannot be said to be objectionable since the same is a popular dress worn by women in the country.

The Supreme Court also stated that the power of Thantri (chief priest of the temple) is restricted to spiritual and customary matters and does not extend to matters like the dress code of the devotees.

Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, who is from Kerala, gave a befitting reply when the petitioner’s lawyer insisted that the change in the 5,000-year-old practice had hurt the ‘sentiments’ of a section of devotees.

Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said ‘Do you know that women were not allowed to cover the upper part of their body. It was only after a revolution that they were allowed to cover the upper part of their body. So should we go back to that practice?’ (The Telegraph, Calcutta)