Observing that spirituality comes from within and all days are auspicious, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to order the Maharashtra government to open Jain temples for 'Paryushan', a holy period for the community. The HC has asked everyone to wait and watch at least till September, when the state is expected to review its policy decision on places of worship.
A bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Madhav Jamdar said, "We are concerned with the safety and security of the public at large. Let the state revise its policy on relaxing rules regarding places of worship."
The observation was made while considering a PIL filed by a Bhandup resident seeking directives to the state authorities to reopen all the temples, especially Jain temples, in view of Paryushan, which starts from August 15. The plea pointed out that the government has thrown open spas, liquor shops, malls etc but has not allowed temples to open despite the Union government recommending their opening by June 8.
Opposing the plea, government pleader Poornima Kantharia submitted the order issued by the state, by which it rejected the representation of the Jain community.
The order highlighted that the pandemic situation in Mumbai and Maharashtra, has not improved, with around 1.25 lakh cases and 5 lakh cases, respectively. It further stated that the government had taken a "policy decision" to continue to close all places and temples of all religions.
"This policy decision was made applicable even on festivals such as Gudi Padwa, Ram Navami, Mahavir Jayanti, Easter, Ashadhi Ekadashi, Ramzan, Bakri Eid and even Janamashtami. All these festivals were celebrated by citizens by staying indoors. There can be no exceptions before the court," Kantharia told the judges.
The government pleader further trashed the contention of the Jain community that the state had allowed commercial establishments such as spas and liquor shops but not temples.
"These establishments have been allowed as due to the nationwide lockdown, the entire economy has come to a standstill," she added.
The state, in its order, further referred to the opening up of the Tirupati Balaji temple in Andhra Pradesh, wherein 743 of its employees had tested positive for Covid-19. "Thus, there is imminent danger in opening temples across the state, particularly in Mumbai. We expect citizens to cooperate with the state, which is already overburdened with the present situation," the state claimed.
Meanwhile, the counsel appearing for the Jain community urged the bench to order opening of Jain temples at least for the auspicious period of Paryushan.
"All days are auspicious. Spirituality comes from within. Everyone will have to wait till the state revises its order," the judges said while adjourning the matter.