Citing life and public health implications amid COVID-19 outbreak, Bombay High Court has rejected two petitions seeking reopening of religious places. The petitioners had sought the directions to open Jain temples during the Paryushan, an auspicious period for Jains.
“God is within us and God is everywhere, cannot allow prayer to reopen of places worship at this stage,” Bombay High court stated during the hearing.
The bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and Madhav J Jamdar further said that it was with great reluctance that the requested relief was rejected by the court.
“It is the duty of every right-thinking person at this stage to balance their religious duties with public duty, and their responsibility towards the rest of mankind. In this regard, we again repeat what we have already told the Petitioners at the time of hearing, that ‘God is within us’ and ‘God is everywhere’,” said the Bombay HC bench.
Two petitions were filed in the Bombay High Court to give the permission to reopen the Jain temples in view of their upcoming auspicious festival Paryushan. One petition was filed by Jain Gyanmandir Trust and the other one by Ankit Hirji.
Earlier on August 11, Disaster Management and Relief’s secretary was directed by the Bombay HC to adjudge the possibilities of allowing the reopening of temples during this pandemic situation. The secretary has rejected the petitioner’s request.
“Whilst we appreciate the religious fervour of the members of the Jain Community, who are seeking access to the places of worship for spiritual advancement/activities and also being sensitive to the fact that great inconvenience is caused to various sections of the people in the State due to the various restrictions imposed, we are of the view that the members of the public should appreciate that the Centre as well as the State Government, who despite being overburdened, have left no stone unturned in taking all possible measures to safeguard the public health of its citizens, and that the said restrictions are imposed in their larger interest. Keeping in mind that maintenance of public health is of paramount importance and the peculiar pandemic that has gripped the world and taken a huge toll in our country, in terms of the number of lives lost, we are inclined to agree with the reasons given by the Secretary,” said the bench with accepting the secretary’s submission.
The secretary Kishore Raje Nimbalkar, gave various reasons to avoid reopening the religious places amid such critical situations. He stated that people from different faiths and cultures have followed the lockdown restrictions scrupulously by staying and celebrating at home. So permissions cannot be granted to the petitioners exceptionally.
The court has asked the secretary to discover if there is any feasibility of reopening the temples citing the example of the commercial activities reopening like barbershops among others. To which Nimbakkar replied that we cannot compare the two as one of them is religious and another one is commercial.
He further stated in the submission that the reason behind resuming the commercial activities was to revive the economy. “There was no question of discrimination under Article 14 of the Constitution in the case at hand,” he added.
Nimbalkar also cited the recent spate of coronavirus infections in Tirupati temple and opined that the ramifications will be irreversible if permission will be granted to reopen the temples. Besides that, allowing relief to one religious group in the light of their cultural belief will lead to the flood of such representations.
Bombay High Court has accepted the order from Kishore Raje Nimbalkar but has directed the matter to be heard on September 7, 2020, again.