Consider demand to reopen Jain temples during Paryushan festival, HC tells Maharashtra govt

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The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government to consider representations by the Jain community seeking permission to enter Jain temples during the eight-day Paryushan festival and submit its decision to the court by August 13.

A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and Madhav Jamdar was hearing two petitions, filed by Ankit Vora and Shree Trustee Atma Kamal Labdhisurishwarji Jain Gyanmandir Trust. The petitions sought a direction to the state government to allow the members of the community to visit Jain temples to perform prayers, more particularly during the period of Paryushan from August 15 to 23.

The petitioners stated that if the malls and market places, barber shops, spas, saloons, beauty parlours, liquor shops can be operated within restrictions, then why can’t similar social distancing principles be set up for the community who wishes to offer prayers at the temple. The petitioners through their advocates Prakash Shah, Jas Sanghvi and Prafulla Shah claimed that not allowing the opening of religious places is “arbitrary, illegal and unreasonable”.

The petitioners further stated that members of the Jain community had no objection if any restrictions were placed as to the number of persons entering the temple at particular time, and the community members would abide by all conditions which the state may want to follow. The petitioners said that representation made to the state government availed no response.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh said that the Centre had permitted the opening of places of worship outside Covid-19 containment zones and had issued separate guidelines for such places. The state government should decide the issue, he further said.

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The court directed the petitioners to submit the representations to the Secretary, Disaster Management Department of the Maharashtra government. After hearing submissions, the bench led by Justice Kathawalla directed the state government to consider the representation made by the petitioners and submit its decision before the court on Thursday.

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