The Jharkhand High Court has dismissed a plea seeking opening of Baba Baidhyanath Jyotirlinga Temple and to convene the Shravani Mela by allowing the public to participate.
The bench comprising of the Chief Justice Dr. Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad observed that, if such a large number of congregations would be allowed, the same would be a very difficult situation not only for the administration of the State of Jharkhand but affecting the people at large.
However, taking into account the proposal made by the state, the bench directed it to make arrangement for online Darshan of the Lord Shiva during Shravani Mela to be started from the opening day and to continue till the last day of the Mela. The Court said that the Pooja of Jyotirlinga would continue during the month of Shravan and Bhado but the same will be done by the Temple Trust without allowing any public participation.
Dr. Nishikant Dubey, a Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), had filed a PIL seeking a direction the Government to open Baba Baidhyanath Jyotirlinga Temple at Deoghar and Baba Basukinath Temple at Basukinath for Public Darshan and to further allow the 'Shravani Mela' devotees to offer prayers during Hindi month of 'Shravan and Bhado' with such precautions in view the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Situation Not Akin To Puri Rath Yatra
When the petitioner relied on the Supreme Court's Puri Jagannath order, the court observed that there is a wide difference in Puri Rath Yatra and Shravani Mela. The Court said:
"In the Shravani Mela the devotees use to lift sacred Ganges water from Sultanganj in the State of Bihar and travel about 50-60 k.m. They used to come to Baba Baidyanath Temple for pouring the sacred water upon Jyotirlinga and as such it is quite impossible to think about avoiding the congregation of the people."
Would Create A Very Difficult Situation
The court added that, unlike Puri Rath Yatra, physical presence of the devotees is of paramount importance for Shravani Mela. It noted that people about more than a lakh in number every day had visited the Temple in the past, during Shravani Mela. The court, said:
"In that view of the matter, this Court is of the view that no such direction for Shravani Mela will be appropriate to be passed taking into consideration the spread of threat of COVID-19 virus which according to us, if allowed, may cause great danger of wide spread of infection of COVID-19 virus and as has been expressed by the State of Jharkhand, through its limited resources, the State authorities are making efforts to put a check upon the spread of virus. If such a large number of congregations would be allowed, the same would be a very difficult situation not only for the administration of the State of Jharkhand but affecting the people at large. "
State Decision For Closure Of Religious Places Not Contrary To That Of Central Govt.
Another legal contention raised in this case was that the Government of Jharkhand has taken a decision contrary to the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs and decided to keep the religious places closed. The petitioner submitted that, Union of India has permitted to open the religious places outside the containment zone, but at the same time, State of Jharkhand took a decision for closure of the religious places outside the containment zone. Rejecting this argument, the Court noted that the Central Government has also left it open upon the State/Union Territories, based on their assessment of the situation prohibiting certain activities outside the containment zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary. The Court observed that Section 6 of the National Disaster Management Act confers power upon the National Authority while Section 22 oconfers power upon the State Executive Committee and both have got independent entity.
Case name: Dr. Nishikant Dubey vs. Union of IndiaCase no.: W.P. (PIL) No.1753 of 2020Coram: Chief Justice Dr. Ravi Ranjan and JusticeSujit Narayan Prasad
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