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Allowing Visitors In Religious Places Amid Covid-19: High Court Directs Delhi Govt To Expeditiously Decide Representation

14 Sep 2021 7:45 AM GMT
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The Delhi High Court today directed the Delhi Government to expeditiously decide a representation made before it for permitting people to visit religious places, subject to Covid-19 protocols in the national capital.

A Division Bench led by Chief Justice DN Patel, after hearing Advocate Raju Robin for the Petitioner, ordered thus:

"Having heard learned counsel for the Petitioner and looking at the facts and circumstances of the case, this Petitioner is in search of strict compliance of Covid-19 protocol while permitting visitors in religious places in Delhi. Alternatively, it is submitted by the learned counsel for the Petitioner that a direction may be given to the concerned authority to decide upon its representation in accordance with law within stipulated time.
In view of this submission, we hereby direct the concerned authority to decide the representation preferred by the Petitioner in accordance with the law, rules, regulations and government policies applicable to the facts of the case, as expeditiously as possible and practicable."

The development comes in the plea moved by NGO Distress Management Collective pursuant to the order issued by the GNCTD dated July 24, 2021, permitting all the Markets, Market Complexes and Malls to open.

There has been a significant drop in Covid cases and the Government has permitted opening up of all sectors including spa, gyms, schools, metro, Raju had submitted.

"It is though striking to note that aforesaid circular continues to prohibit visitors from religious places. This prolonged prohibition on visitors from going to religious places has become a matter of distress for not just religious leaders but to the believers at large," the plea read.

He pointed out that recently, Retd. Justice Kurian Joseph had also written to the Delhi CM, urging him to open up places of worship to the public.

It was further submitted that by continuing to prohibit people from visiting religious places, especially when the number of Covid-19 cases in Delhi have come down, gives an impression that the Delhi Government sees religious places solely as places of worship and not a necessity.

Stating that spiritual guidance and counselling gives mental strength and relief in the uncertain times, it was argued that such an experience will only be obtained when people will visit their desired religious place of worship.
"It may not be out of place to mention that the recent order to prohibit visitors only from religious places violates Article 25 of the Constitution which guarantees the freedom to profess and practise one's religion. It is though not denied that the said right is subject to morality, health and public order. The core issue of concern is clause (xiii) of the order of the Respondent no.2 that denies permission to visitors in religious places, when permission has been granted to open all other places," the plea read.
In view of such "selective exclusion" of religious places, the Petitioners had sought a direction on the GNCTD to permit restricted number of visitors in religious places by placing responsibility on the managing committees of religious places to ensure that Covid-appropriate behaviour is strictly complied with.

Case Title: Distress Management Collective v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi & Anr.

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