14 Aug 2020 9:44 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to allow members of the Jain community from offering prayers in temples during the holy period of Paryushan festival (between August 15 and August 23) observing that the duty of every right thinking person at this stage is to balance their religious duties with public duty, and their responsibility towards the rest of mankind. Division bench...
The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to allow members of the Jain community from offering prayers in temples during the holy period of Paryushan festival (between August 15 and August 23) observing that the duty of every right thinking person at this stage is to balance their religious duties with public duty, and their responsibility towards the rest of mankind.
Division bench of Justice SJ Kathawalla and Justice Madhav Jamdar heard the two petitions filed by one Ankit Vora and Shree Trustee Atma Kamal Labdhisurishwarji Jain Gyanmandir Trust.
Advocates Prakash Shah and Prafulla Shah appeared on behalf of the petitioners and GP Poornima Kantharia for the State and Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh for the Union of India.
The matter came up for hearing on August 11 and it was submitted on behalf of the petitioners that though on May 30, 2020, the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs had already issued an order to open the religious places/places of worship for the public on and from June 8, 2020 and though the Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on June 4, 2020, also issued "SOP on preventive measures to contain spread of COVID-19 in religious places/places of worship", the Government of Maharashtra whilst allowing opening of spas, gyms, beauty parlours, barber shops, liquor shops, malls, market complexes, etc., and also allowing a certain number of persons to attend marriage gatherings and funeral ceremonies with some restrictions, are till date not allowing the members of the public to visit religious places/places of worship.
Thereafter, considering the submissions made on behalf of the petitioners, Court asked the petitioners to make a representation before the Secretary, Disaster Management , Relief and Rehabilitation. Accordingly, the Secretary submitted his opinion on Thursday before the Court. He submitted-
As on August 11, 2020, the total population affected by Covid-19 in the State of Maharashtra is 5,35,601 and the total number of deaths registered on account of Covid-19 is 18,306. Out of these, in Mumbai alone, the total number of infected cases have been found to be 1,25,224 and in Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburban District, Thane, Palghar and Raigad District, which are part of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Area, the number of infected cases is 272,104 and the total number of deaths registered on account of COVID-19 is 10962.
Thus, pointing to the above figures, the Secretary submitted that they clearly show that the State of Maharashtra is amongst the most affected States in India. Although the Government of India has with effect from June 8, 2020, allowed opening of religious places/places of worship for public, for which a separate Standard Operating Procedure has been issued, the Government of India has in all its orders, consistently and consciously mentioned that, "States/UTs based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain activities outside the containment zones or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary."
So, for Maharashtra, looking at the prevailing position, both in urban and rural areas, a conscious policy decision has been taken to continue with the closure of all places of worship and not to permit any religious congregations, without any exception, Secretary submitted.
Furthermore, the Secretary reminded the petitioners that till date the restrictions have been followed, be it on Gudhi Padava, Shree Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanti, Mahaveer Jayanti, Easter Sunday, Buddha Pornima, Akshay Trutiya, Ramadan Eid, Vat Pornima, Various Dindis to Pandharpur, Ashadhi Ekadashi, Guru Pornima, Nag Panchami, Bakari Eid, All Shravan Somwars (Monday), Raksha Bandhan, Gokulashtami and Dahi Handi.
The recent example of the danger in opening of temples is to be seen in the opening of the Tirumala Tirupati Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh. The opening of the said Temple has opened floodgates for coronavirus infections. As many as 743 employees of the Tirupati Temple have tested positive for Covid-19, Secretary contended.
Finally, after hearing all contentions, Court observed-
"Keeping in mind that maintenance of public health is of paramount importance and the peculiar pandemic that has gripped the world and taken a huge toll in our country, in terms of the number of lives lost, we are inclined to agree with the reasons given by the Secretary, Disaster Management, Relief and Rehabilitation for not opening places of worship/temples to the members of the public at this stage.
Before parting with this Order, we would once again reiterate that it is the duty of every right thinking person at this stage to balance their religious duties with public duty, and their responsibility towards the rest of mankind. In this regard, we again repeat what we have already told the Petitioners at the time of hearing, that "God is within us" and "God is everywhere"."
However, the bench did not dispose of the writ petitions and placed the same "for directions" on September 7, 2020 keeping in mind that the present situation restrictions are in force only upto August 31, 2020
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