The Supreme Court in the Sabarimala review case by a majority of 3:2 kept the review petitions pending along with several writ petitions on the same subject matter while referring the question of ‘judicial interference in essential religious practices’ to a larger judge bench. Justices Rohinton F Nariman and D Y Chandrachud, on the other hand, dissented upholding the 2018 Sabarimala verdict that allowed the entry of women of all age groups to Sabarimala temple.
The majority decision is hard to comprehend as the decision does not have a line of legal reasoning or thought. Supreme Court has been conferred with the review jurisdiction under Article 137 of the Constitution of India. However, the grounds for seeking a review of the judgment are restricted by Order XVIII of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 read with Order XLVII Rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. A combined reading of the provisions would show only if new shreds of evidence are found which were either not found earlier or were unable to be produced, or on the existence of an error apparent on the face of the record, or for any other sufficient reason can a review be sought. The interpretation of the phrase ‘any other sufficient reason’ is restricted by the principle of egusdem generis–which means that the grounds will have to be analogous to the previous grounds.
A perusal of the decision, however, elucidates that the majority judgment has not examined the question of whether a review can be undertaken on any of the above three grounds. A subsidiary question that arises is whether the bench hearing a review petition has the power to refer a substantial question of law to another bench. At the root of the majority opinion was its decision to club the review petition under Art 137 with other ‘fresh writ petitions’ challenging the Court’s decision in Sabarimala case in 2018.