SC Allows Paryushan Prayers at 3 Jain Temples in Mumbai on Weekend
The SC allowed a request by Jain devotees, as they said only five people at a time would be allowed in.
The Supreme Court on Friday, 21 August, held that Jain devotees could offer prayers for the ongoing Paryushan festival at three Jain temples in Mumbai (Dadar, Chembur and Byculla) over the weekend, with the temples to follow a standard operating procedure (SOP) formulated with the authorities.
The special permission has been granted for Saturday (22 August) and Sunday (23 August) only, when the eight-day festival will conclude.
Although the Central government has removed the broad prohibition against entry into religious places of worship, states can still impose restrictions on entry to religious places as well as prohibit gatherings. On 14 August, the Bombay High Court had rejected a request from members of the Jain community to be allowed to pray at their temples during the Paryushan festival.
The Shri Parshwatilak Shwetambar Murtipujak Jain Trust, which runs the temples, then approached the Supreme Court challenging this decision of the high court and asking for a limited allowance for Jain devotees.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS?
The State of Maharashtra opposed the petition in the apex court. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the state government, argued that it would not be wise to allow entry into temples as Maharashtra has seen massive increases in coronavirus cases.
Singhvi also raised concerns that if permission was granted here, it would open the floodgates for requests from devotees of other religions – including those who wished to celebrate the upcoming Ganesh Chaturthi.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, arguing for the Jain Trust, said that they were “only seeking allowance of congregation of people up to 250 a day”, Live Law reported. Dave also argued that the government was not policing private establishments like malls, barber shops, liquor shops, so when the Centre had allowed places of worship to open, then why should they prevent people from going to these.
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde agreed that he found it strange that economic activities were being permitted, but COVID objections were raised when it came to religious activities. He said that a blanket prohibition could not be imposed, and noted that the apex court had allowed the conduct of the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Odisha, subject to strict restrictions and regulations.
“We were forgiven by Lord Jagannath, we will be forgiven again," the CJI is reported to have said, referring to his comments from the earlier case as well.
In light of the coronavirus risk and the fact that the Jains had specifically argued that only a limited number of people (five at a time) would be allowed in, the CJI said they would allow the Jains’ request, but:
“We must make it clear that the Order in this case does not extend to any other Trust or any other temples. Our Order is not intended to apply in any other case, particularly which involves large congregation of people which by their very nature cannot be controlled.”
The CJI specifically said when saying this, the court was expressly referring to the large congregations of people which take place during the Ganesh Chathurthi festival in Mumbai and elsewhere.
(With inputs from Live Law, NDTV.)
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