Shani Shingnapur Row: HC Directs Government to Act on Gender Bias

The government assured the high court that provisions of the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship Act will be followed

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File photo of the Shani Shignapur temple in Ahmednagar. (Photo: PTI)

The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra government to take pro-active steps for ensuring compliance with the law to prevent discrimination against women. The high court made the observations after it ruled that women cannot be discriminated against when it comes to entering places of worship.

The court said, “it is the fundamental right of a woman” and that the government should protect it.

The court had earlier disposed of a PIL on the ban of entry of women in the sanctum santorum of the Shani Shingnapur temple. In the hearing on Friday, the Bombay High Court said that it can only pass a general direction to the government and cannot go into individual and specific cases.

The Maharashtra government assured the high court that it is completely against gender discrimination and the provisions of Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act shall be scrupulously implemented.

On 26 January, the outfit, led by Trupti Desai had made a high-voltage attempt to breach a similar ban at the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district and vowed to carry on with its campaign for gender justice.

Secretary of Home Department, Maharashtra, will ensure due compliance and enforcement of the provisions of the Act, and in order to ensure that the policy and purpose of the Act is fully carried out. They (Home department) will issue directions to all superintendents of police and collectors in each district of Maharashtra
Division Bench of Chief Justice DH Waghela and Justice MS Sonak

Chief justice Waghela said, “Ultimately it is the fundamental right of a woman and the government’s fundamental duty to protect their (women) right.”

The state’s acting Advocate General Rohit Deo, in a submission to the high court, said that a circular or a directive shall be issued to all district collectors and Superintendents of Police, making them aware of the provisions of the Act. They accepted the government’s statement.

The government’s submission was made following the high court’s rap to the government on Wednesday on the issue.

Under the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956, if any temple or person prohibits any person from entering a temple then he or she faces a six-month imprisonment.

The acting AG, however, clarified to the high court that if a temple in the state does not allow any person, irrespective of their gender, inside the sanctum sanctorum, then this Act and its provisions will not be of any help.

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