Bom HC | “Duty of every right thinking person at this stage to balance their religious duties with public duty”; Worship places cannot be permitted to reopen in view of the pandemic

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.J. Kathawalla and Madhav Jamdar, JJ., reiterated that in times of this peculiar pandemic, it is the duty of every right-thinking person to balance their religious duties with public duty and their responsibility towards the rest of mankind.

Petitioner sought directions against respondents to allow the members of the Jain community to visit the Jain Temples and to perform prayers.

Petitioners moved for urgent reliefs to the extent that during the holy period of ‘Paryushan’ they should be permitted to visit Jain Temples.

Court by its order dated 11-08-2020 directed the Secretary Disaster Management to consider the representation of members of the Jain Communityore particularly the submission of the petitioners that if the malls and market places, barber shops, spas, salons, beauty parlours, liquor shops, etc. can be operated with certain restrictions, why the Jain devotees should not be allowed to visit the places of worship to offer prayers and/or to perform rituals with similar restrictions.

Secretary Disaster Management stated that State of Maharashtra is amongst the most affected States in India and has been adopting various precautionary measures to contain the pandemic.

Further, it was added that 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.”

Prevailing position in the State of Maharashtra demands a conscious policy decision of closure of all worship places and not to permit any religious congregations.

Hence, taking into consideration the prevailing circumstances and situation in the State of Maharashtra acceding to the petitioner’s request will not be possible.

High Court in view of the facts and submission of the Secretary Disaster Management stated that the members of the public should appreciate that the Centre as well as the State Government, who despite being over burdened, have left no stone unturned in taking all possible measures to safeguard the public health of its citizens, and that the said restrictions are imposed in their larger interest.

However, the bench did not dispose of the petition and placed the same for directions on 07-09-2020. [Ankit Hirji Vora v. UOI, OS-WP-LD-VC-259 of 2020, decided on 13-08-2020]

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