In an embarrassment for the opposition BJP, the Kerala High Court directed state leader Shoba Surendran to shell out a fine of Rs 25,000 for filing a “baseless” public interest litigation against the arrests carried out by the state police allegedly in violation of Supreme Court guidelines on the Sabarimala issue. Dismissing the petition, the High Court remarked that it was “filed for publicity”.
Ms Surendran, however, wasn’t convinced. “We will move the Supreme Court against the High Court decision. Why should we pay anything? Isn’t it our right to bring facts to the court’s notice?” she questioned.
The court has ordered the BJP leader to to pay the entire amount to the Kerala Legal Service Authority within two weeks.
Over 5,000 people were arrested for indulging in disruptive activities during protests against a Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala earlier this year. Many of them belonged to right-wing groups, such as the BJP and the RSS.
The BJP — led by general secretary AN Radhakrishnan — has already launched a hunger protest outside the Kerala secretariat to demand that the police withdraw cases filed against its workers, besides the lifting of prohibitory orders in the vicinity of the temple. However, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has maintained that these demands are unacceptable to the government, and vowed to strongly deal with any attempt at polarising society.
Mr Vijayan had earlier announced that a “human wall” of women will be formed from the northern district of Kasargode to the state capital on January 1 in a show of solidarity with the state government on the Sabarimala issue. “The hash tag of the ‘women wall’ would be: Don’t send Kerala back into the dark ages. Many social organisations have pledged their support to the state government on our Sabarimala stand,” the Chief Minister said.
A number of women who attempted the Sabarimala climb in the wake of the Supreme Court order had been forced back by protesters. Violence also erupted on occasion, with right-wing activists targeting women pilgrims as well as journalists, forcing the Kerala government to impose prohibitory orders in the area.