Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has allowed the opening of three temples, i.e. one each in Byculla, Dadar (W) and Chembur in Mumbai on 22.08.2020 and 23.08.2020 for devotees to perform the rituals connected with ‘Paryushan’.
The Court, however made clear that
“this order is not intended to be used as a precedent by other persons to seek permission to hold any festivals/festivities which would involve, by their very nature, congregation of people, such as ‘Ganesh Festival’.”
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the public charitable trust named Shri Parshwatilak Shwetamber Murtipujak Jain Trust, submitted that the Trust has given the following undertakings along with it’s prayer:
- That the conditions mentioned in the “SOP on preventive measures to contain spread of COVID-10 in religious places/place of worship” dated 4 June 2020 by the Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as public health measures will be strictly observed.
- The entry of devotees will be restricted to 250 persons per day and only in the age group of 12 to 65, in the places of worship.
- At any given point of time, no congregation of people will be allowed in temples and only up to 5 persons will be allowed to enter and remain within the inner part of the temples.
- The Jain Community of Mumbai will be appraised of the order that may be passed by this Hon’ble Court and the above conditions through appropriate means of public communication.
On the other hand, Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the State of Maharashtra, highlighted that the SOPs issued by the Government of India provides only the minimum threshold and that the different States are entitled to fix a higher threshold depending upon the fact situation.
“… the State Government had applied the restrictions uniformly to all communities and all religions and that nothing can be done to upset the balance.”
The Court was, however, of the view that a small reprieve can be granted to the petitioners, without making it as a precedent. It took note of the fact that the petitioners are not seeking to hold any festivities in congregation. The petitioners want by way of an interim measure opening of three temples, one each in Byculla, Dadar (W) and Chembur in Mumbai. They have undertaken to restrict the entry of devotees only to five persons at any given time subject to maximum of 250 devotees on a single day. This prayer is also restricted only to two days viz., 22.08.2020 and 23.08.2020.
[Shri Parshwatilak Shwetamber Tapagachh Murtipujak Jain Trust v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 665, order dated 21.08.2020]