Courts Rule Not To Interfere In Jain Traditions

The Madhya Pradesh High Court ruled that the judicial forces at work in New Delhi have no jurisdiction over traditional religious practices. This ruling means that men will continue to be the sole performers of the jal abhishek ritual, barring women who believe they should have a chance to do the same work in equal standing. 

According to the court ruling, “Men are allowed to perform jalabhishek of idol Bawangajaji after taking bath and after wearing dhoti and dupatta. It is an essential religious practice and in no way can be termed as discrimination [to women].”

Further justification of the ruling was that women in general are not barred from entering Jain temples and sanctuaries. It was strictly a matter of determining whether constitutionally derived laws protected the rights of women in cases of religious practice. The court determined that no laws have been broken in barring women from this practice.

The high court explained, “The practice is integral to the temple and it is ‘essential religious practice’ of the temple and in no way amounts to discrimination keeping in view Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees protection of the cherished liberties of faith, belief and worship to persons belonging to all religious in a secular polity.”

Other notes suggested that of course the court systems had no right to write or reform traditional religious texts passed down for centuries, and even that “they are under an obligation to follow the religious text” when disputes regarding religious customs and traditions arise. When cases involve religious transformation, the court system should therefore disregard new practices in favor of those passed down for longer periods of time. 

These, according to the courts, have no bearing on the constitutional rights of Indian citizens.

In fact, the court deemed it unnecessary — and even unjust — to review religious practices because religious morality and judicial morality are often construed much differently, especially when it comes to worship.

The court said that “doing so would negate the freedom to practice one’s religious according to one’s faith and beliefs. It would amount to rationalising religion, faith and beliefs, which is outside the ken of courts.”

The case was brought to the court’s attention when a female Jain asked for the right to perform the aforementioned religious rituals.

“The court is not a theological wizard and shall be transgressing its role as a constitutional authority by interfering with the essential religious practice,” the court wrote. “Which is certainly not at all opposed to public order, morality, health or any other fundamental right. Resultantly, no case for interference is made out in the matter and the writ petition is accordingly dismissed.”