India’s Supreme Court on Thursday referred a decision to lift a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age entering a Hindu temple to a larger bench of judges, delaying a final verdict in the case that has divided opinion.
Some women had defied the traditional ban on entering the temple in the southern state of Kerala, enraging conservative Hindu groups, sparking protests and drawing the Supreme Court into the controversy.
Upholding the right to equality of worship, a five-judge bench of the court last September ruled that the ban on women and girls entering the Sabarimala temple could not be considered essential religious practice and should be lifted.
But many devotees have refused to abide by the ruling and subsequent attempts by women to visit it had been blocked.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in September 2018, about a dozen women attempted to enter the shrine. Of them, only two succeeded in making into the temple’s inner sanctum, escorted by police, according to the Kerala government.
About 60 petitions were filed seeking the re-imposition of the ban.
The issue will now be taken up by a larger, seven-judge bench, the Supreme Court said.
Edited by Abdullahi Mohammed/Sadiya Hamza
Three Indian soldiers killed in ‘violent’ border face-off with China
Two Indian soldiers and an officer are dead after a “violent face-off” with Chinese soldiers on the disputed Himalayan border, one of the most serious incidents involving the two countries in decades.
There were casualties on the Chinese side as well, Indian army officials in New Delhi, claimed.
The incident took place late on Monday night in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, where the two sides have been in a stand-off for the past few weeks, with some skirmishes reported.
Military representatives of both sides were meeting to defuse the tension, according to an official statement released in New Delhi.
“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties on both sides.
“The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers,’’ army spokesperson, Col. Aman Anand, said.
“Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation,’’ Anand said.
Broadcaster NDTV reported that the deaths were not a result of gunfire, but possibly hand-to-hand combat.
Beijing accused India of crossing the border and attacking Chinese soldiers.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, told a press briefing that Indian forces had twice carried out “provocative” attacks across the border, leading to “serious physical clashes” on both sides.
The escalation between the Asian giants comes amid efforts to defuse weeks of tensions on the border.
Military-level talks had been initiated.
Thousands of Indian and Chinese forces have been locked in a stand-off for weeks at different places in the Ladakh region, including Pangong Lake and the Galwan valley, since early May, accusing each other of trespassing.
The deaths are believed to be the first in a confrontation between the two Asian neighbours since 1975 when four Indian soldiers died when a patrol was ambushed in the north-eastern state of Aunachal Pradesh, Indian media reported.
The Himalayan borders have seen skirmishes and clashes between the two countries before, but these have usually been resolved without the loss of lives following military and diplomatic talks.
India and China dispute several sections along their ill-defined 3,500-kilometre border, most of which runs along the Himalayan range.
The two countries fought a war over their border in 1962.
The latest stand-off in Ladakh has seen brawls involving fistfights, stone-pelting and shouting matches after Chinese troops entered deep inside Indian Territory and ignored warnings to leave, Indian media reported.
The Chinese troops were camping at the sites, having erected tents and brought material for the construction of bunkers.
India also deployed additional units in the area.
The last face-off between the forces of the Asian neighbours was at the uninhabited Doklam plateau in the eastern Himalayas, which continued for more than 70 days.
That stand-off saw troops dispatched to Doklam from both sides after China attempted to build a road through the plateau, which is claimed by Bhutan, a close ally of India.
Edited byn Abdulfatah Babatunde
Indian capital health minister admitted in hospital for high fever
Delhi Health Minister of Indian capital city Satyendar Jain was admitted to hospital for high fever.
Jain was admitted at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital (RGSSH) in the capital city.
“Due to high grade fever and a sudden drop of my oxygen levels last night I have been admitted to RGSSH. Will keep everyone updated,” Jain wrote on twitter.
A spokesperson for the Delhi government said a COVID-19 test will be conducted on Jain later in the day.
On Monday Jain attended an all-party meeting chaired by federal home minister Amit Shah. Delhi chief minister was also present at the meeting.
Last week, Kejriwal had gone into self-isolation at his home after he had a bout of fever and complained of sore throat. Kejriwal had tested negative for COVID-19.
Delhi has the third-highest number of infections in India with 42,829 COVID-19 cases and 1,400 fatalities till date.
Pakistan detains 2 Indian high commission staff members for hit-and-run case in Islamabad
Police on Monday detained two staff members of the High Commission of India in Islamabad for injuring a pedestrian in a road accident here, local media and sources said.
The staff members were trying to flee after hitting the pedestrian when people gathered around their car to stop them. In the meantime, police reached at the incident site and detained the two staffers, local media quoted eye witnesses as saying.
Sources from the intelligence agencies told Xinhua that the two staffers were in Pakistan in the non-diplomatic category, and have been working in the country since 2017.
They also said that reckless driving on the part of the staffer, who was driving the car, was the cause of the accident.
The injured man, who got hit while walking on the footpath, has been shifted to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Police shifted the staffers to Pakistan secretariat police station for further investigation where two senior officers of the Indian high commission also reached to handle the matter, the sources added.
Local media later quoted a statement by Islamabad police as saying that the arrested people have been released.
Tension runs high among the diplomatic circles of the both countries after India expelled two staffers of Pakistani high commission on the charges of espionage in May.
Pakistani foreign office termed Indian allegations as baseless, calling the Indian action a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
India, Pakistan troops exchange fire on Kashmir LoC: Indian official
Troops of India and Pakistan Monday exchanged heavy fire and targeted each other’s positions on Line of Control (LoC), dividing Kashmir, according to Indian military official.
The two sides exchanged fire on LoC in Sunderbani sector of frontier Rajouri district, about 222 km southwest of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
According to Indian army officials, the exchange was going on until last reports poured in. However, so far no loss of life was reported in the skirmishes on the Indian or Pakistani side.
On Sunday a trooper was killed and two others wounded in an overnight exchange of fire in Shahpur-Kerni sector of adjacent frontier Poonch district.
The troops of India and Pakistan intermittently exchange fire on LoC and International Border (IB) in Kashmir, despite an agreement in 2003 to observe a cease-fire. However, the cease-fire remains in effect. New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of resorting to unprovoked firings and violating cease-fire agreements. And both sides maintain their troops gave a befitting reply to the other side.