Bom HC | Religious places of worship closed; Prayer offering in mosque during Ramzaan not allowed in wake of COVID-19: Court discusses scope of Art. 25

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of R.D. Dhanuka and V.G. Bisht, JJ., held that offering of prayers only in the mosque during the period of Ramzan could not be considered due to the ongoing critical COVID situation which is serious in nature.

Petitioner sought direction to respondents to allow Muslims to offer 5 times prayers and Taraweeh namaz at the mosque from 14th April, 2021 till the end of Ramzaan adhering to social distancing and SOP’s in force.

Government of Maharashtra has issued an Order dated 13-04-2021 under the provisions of Disaster Management Act, 2005 stated that the State Government having been satisfied that the State of Maharashtra was threatened with the spread of COVID-19 Virus, and therefore it was imperative to take certain emergency measures to prevent and contain the spread of virus.

As per the Order, the State of Maharashtra had already enforced night curfew and restricted all activities except the activities falling under the essential category. State Government even banned all religious, social, cultural or political functions of any kind during the 14-04-2021 to 01-05-2021. It was specifically stated that the Religious Places of Worship shall remain closed. All the personnel engaged in the service of the place of Worship shall continue to perform their duties though no outside visitor shall be allowed.

In Court’s opinion, the restrictions were imposed after considering the prevailing circumstances and various other pros and cons.

Bench while expressing that Article 25 of the Constitution of India permits all persons equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, the same is subject to public order, morality and health, held that:

such congregation which is apprehended by the State, if such permission is granted, it is likely that it would seriously affect the public order and health. If such permission is granted, it would violate the condition imposed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

In Delhi High Court’ decision of Delhi Waqf Board v. Government of NCT of Delhi, it was clearly stated that the Union of India had agreed for allowing the petitioners to offer prayers subject to following COVID norms.

Bench opined that Delhi High Court’s decision could not be taken as a precedent in the present case.

Considering the prevailing situation and the ground reality prevailing in the State of Maharashtra, Court cannot permit the petitioner to perform any prayers in the said mosque in violation of the order dated 13th April, 2021 issued by the Government of Maharashtra which is issued in the public interest and for the safety of all the residents of Maharashtra.

In view of the above discussion, a petition was dismissed. [Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust v. State of Maharashtra, WP (L) No. 10152 of 2021, decided on 14-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr M. A. Vaid a/w Ms Shagufa Ansari, Ms Vidhya Seth i/by M/s. Vaid and Associates for the Petitioner.

Ms Jyoti Chavan, AGP for Respondent No.1-State.

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