NEW DELHI           -    India’s top court on Thursday delayed a verdict on the lifting of a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age entering a Hindu temple, asking more judges to consider the case involving gender discrimination and religion that has divided opinion. Upholding the right to equality of worship, a five-judge bench of the court last year ruled that the ban on women from entering the Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala could not be considered an essential religious practice and should be lifted. The decision had enraged conservative Hindu groups, sparked protests and drew the Supreme Court into the controversy in what is still a deeply religious country. Many devotees refused to abide by the ruling and subsequent attempts by women to visit the temple were blocked. On Thursday, after examining about 60 petitions that sought a re-imposition of the ban, the court ruled that a larger, seven-judge bench would look at issues arising out of this case and three other pending cases of gender discrimination, in the minority Muslim and Parsi communities. “The entry of women into places of worship is not limited to this temple only,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said while reading out the judgment. Some lawyers and political analysts said the decision to scrutinise certain Hindu practices alongside those of other religions could pave the way for a public discussion on a uniform civil code, which is high on the agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).