Covid situation in state not yet conducive to reopen temples: Bombay HCUpdated: Aug 15, 2020 00:50 IST
Reiterating that the Covid-19 situation in Maharashtra is not yet conducive to reopen the places of worship, the Bombay high court (HC) on Friday refused to interfere with the state government’s decision to not allow temples to reopen as of now.
The two-member bench, comprising chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Surendra Tavade, was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Associate for Aiding Justice, seeking the reopening of places of worship of all faiths.
Advocate Dipesh Siroya, representing the NGO, submitted that as the central government allowed the reopening of temples and the Covid-19 situation in Maharashtra has also improved, the state government should permit temples to reopen. He said that the government may not allow religious functions to be held in temples and also restrict the number of devotees entering the religious institution, but can certainly allow people to enter temples to worship the deities.
Assistant government pleader Nisha Mehra opposed the PIL by pointing out that the state government had rejected representations for opening up of temples on August 12, and a co-ordinate bench has refused a prayer for interim relief to reopen Jain temples for a nine-day festival of the community.
After hearing the petition, the bench refused to accept the claim that the Covid-19 situation in Maharashtra has improved.
“Please pray at home, and if you have some love left for humanity, please don’t press these prayers,” said the bench.
“If the situation improves, this court, being the temple of justice, will be the first to reopen, before any other temple opens up for devotees,” it added.
When the bench opined that it will accept the decision of the co-ordinate bench, Siroya claimed the decision was only as regards Jain temples, but the PIL was seeking reopening of all places of worship. However, Mehra clarified that the decision was not restricted to only Jain temples, but was applicable to other faiths as well.
The bench has now posted the PIL for further hearing on August 18. It directed Siroya to clarify the status of the petitioner body, after noticing that it has been registered as a company. “How can a company espouse cause religious rights?” the bench asked.