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“There is no law that prevents entry of women in any place. If you allow men then you should allow women also. If a male can go and pray before the deity then why not women? It is the state government’s duty to protect the rights of women,” Chief Justice Waghela said today.

No law prevents women from entering a place of worship and if men are allowed, then women too should be permitted, the Bombay High Court observed Wednesday while stating that any temple or person imposing such restriction can face a six month jail term under a Maharashtra law.

The observations were made by a division bench of Chief Justice D H Waghela nd Justice M S Sonak during the hearing of a public interest litigation by senior advocate Nilima Vartak and activist Vidya Bal, challenging the prohibition of entry of women in the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.

The court also said that the government should give wide publicity to the Act and issue circulars, informing the general public at large about the Act and its provisions. The court directed government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani to take instructions and make a statement on Friday (April 1), on whether or not it will ensure that women will be allowed to enter the temple.

The petition seeks the entry of women not just into the temple, but also inside its sanctum sanctorum. The petition says that the prohibition is arbitrary, illegal and in violation of fundamental rights of citizens.