"Can't Consider Delhi HC's Order As A Precedent":Bombay High Court Refuses To Allow Ramadan Prayers In Juma Masjid Mosque

Update: 2021-04-14 12:05 GMT

A vacation bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to allow the Juma Masjid mosque in Mumbai to open up for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, in view of the ongoing critical covid situation in the State. The division of Justices RD Dhanuka and VG Bisht dismissed a petition filed by the Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust, seeking directions for merely 50 people to pray...

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A vacation bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to allow the Juma Masjid mosque in Mumbai to open up for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, in view of the ongoing critical covid situation in the State.

The division of Justices RD Dhanuka and VG Bisht dismissed a petition filed by the Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust, seeking directions for merely 50 people to pray five times Namaaz and Taraweeh on the one-acre plot, near Crawford Market in South Mumbai.

Considering the prevailing situation and the ground reality prevailing in the State of Maharashtra, we cannot permit the petitioner to perform any prayers in the said mosque in violation of the order dated 13th April, 2013 issued by the Government of Maharashtra which is issued in public interest and for safety of all the residents of Maharashtra.

The Bench observed that the Delhi High Court's order of April 12 2021, in Delhi Waqf Board v/s. Government of NCT of Delhi and Anr. could not be considered as a precedent, as the Union had consented to prayers in Delhi mosque.

"A perusal of the said order clearly indicates that the Union of India had agreed for allowing the petitioners therein to offer prayers subject to following covid norms. In our view, Ms. Chavan, learned AGP for the respondent no.1-State is right in her submission that the said order passed by Delhi High Court cannot be considered as a precedent in this case."

The Bench cited at least three cases where people from other faiths were not permitted to celebrate customs are the cost of endangering public health.

Arguments

During the hearing, the petitioners represented by advocate Mohiuddin Ahmed Vaid of Vaid and Associates submitted that nearly seven thousand people can be accommodated at the Mosque, however, only fifty people may be permitted to offer Namaaz by following social distancing norms.

He argued that if marriages could be allowed with a restricted number of people, why not prayers in a Mosque. He further said that on April 12, the Delhi High Court has considered pleas of allowing people to pray in a Delhi mosque, by following all necessary SOP's.

State Counsel Jyoti Chavan submitted that Maharashtra has recorded 60,228 cases of which 11,000 cases are only in Mumbai. The situation in Delhi and Mumbai is different, she said. She also cited the fresh SoP by the State, saying that people needed to stay at home to break the chain.

ORDER

In its order dismissing the petition, the bench cited its November 27, 2020 judgement in the case of Dhananjay Mohan Deshmukh and Ors. v/s. The SubDivisional Officer, Igatpuri-Trimbakeshwar Sub-Division, Nashik where the petitioners had sought permission for only two priests to pull the bullock cart, to carry out the age-old tradition of Rath yatra of Lord Trimbakeshwar on the occasion of Tripurari Pournima Rath Yatra which was scheduled on 29th November, 2020.

The Court had dismissed the petition observing that Article 25 of the Constitution of India though permits all persons equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, the same is subject to public order, morality and health.

This Court held that such congregation which is apprehended by the State, if such permission is granted, it is likely that it would seriously affect the public order and health. If such permission is granted, it would violate the condition imposed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

The bench further cited the orders passed in the case of Warkari Seva Sangh and Anr v/s. The State of Maharashtra and Durga Jan Seva Trust v/s. Goverment of NCT of Delhi.

In Durga Jan Seva Trust v/s. Goverment of NCT of Delhi the court observed that While religious sentiments of all sections of the society must be respected, the right to life and health of the public at large cannot be sacrificed at the altar of a right to celebrate a festival, however, significant it may be for a particular community.

Following arguments, the bench cited judgements passed on the same issue by the Court, in the last six months. The bench noted that public health is of prime importance and has to be considered.

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