The Supreme Court on Friday allowed Jain community in Mumbai to hold Paryushan puja at three temples at Dadar, Byculla and Chembur on August 23 and 24.
A Bench led by CJI SA Bobde said standard operating procedure (SOP) and distancing protocols for COVID19 shall be followed.
“We are of the view that if the petitioner will faithfully comply with the undertaking it would not be hazardous to permit the worship at these three temples—Dadar, Byculla and Chembur,” it said.
“We must make it clear that our order, in this case, is restricted to the prayers to be offered at the three temples at Dadar, Byculla and Chembur, belonging to the petitioner trust and does NOT extend to any other trust or any other temple,” the Bench noted.
However, no congregations and prayers shall be allowed, it said, adding this permission was not a precedent for seeking permission for Ganpati festival or any other ensuing religious festivals.
The decision about Ganpati festival will have to be taken on a case to case basis by the state disaster management authorities, the top court said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the Centre didn’t have any objection to the relaxation if the June 4 SOP on COVID-19 was followed.
During the hearing, the Bench pulled up the Maharashtra government for permitting the opening of malls and other economic activities but not temples and other religions places.
“They are allowing every activity that involves money but when it comes to temples they say there is COVID,” the Bench said.
The Maharashtra government opposed the plea seeking direction to it to permit devotees to visit Jain temples in Mumbai.
“We find it strange that they are willing to allow activities involving economic interests but if it involves religion, they cite COVID to say they can’t open,” the CJI commented.
On behalf of the petitioners, senior advocate Dushyant Dave submitted that he wanted the court to allow entry of only five devotees at a time with an upper limit of 250 devotees on a particular day.
“If it is only five people, we don’t mind going beyond the Jain community and allowing same for Hindu, Muslim and other communities too”, the top court said during the hearing.
On behalf of the Maharashtra Government, senior counsel AM Singhvi said the pandemic was spreading in the state and policing places of worship for ensuring adherence to COVID19 guidelines would be difficult.
“Who will take the responsibility”, Singhvi, himself a Jain, wondered.
“We were forgiven by Lord Jagannath, we will be forgiven again,” the CJI said during the hearing.