Can't open religious places: Govt

Mumbai: Terming the recent Ganesh festival as an "eye-opener" the Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it won't be possible for it to throw open religious places for the citizenry. The state has said that it would not be feasible to open up places of worship as the Covid situation hasn't improved yet.

A bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and Surendra Tavade was informed that the recent Ganpati festival was an eye-opener wherein citizens did not act in a "responsible" manner.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the state said that the government had given a thought to the suggestion of opening up of places of worship with certain guidelines. "But we have decided against it since the cases of Covid-19 are continuing to rise," he said.

Referring to the state's affidavit, AG Kumbhakoni pointed out that the state machinery had faced a tough time in managing crowds at vegetable markets and even during the Ganesh festival.

The affidavit filed by the state's disaster management department further pointed out that public health and hygiene was paramount than the right to practice religion.

"The constitutional right to practice and propagate religion would be subject to public order, morality and health. Maintenance and improvement of public health must rank the highest," the state said in its affidavit, adding that there was no guarantee that citizens would be following the guidelines, if any is issued.

"The recent Ganesh festival was really an eye-opener. The state had issued guidelines for celebrations and it was expected of citizens to follow the same in letter and spirit since it is the duty and responsibility of each citizen to cooperate with the state during the pandemic," the affidavit stated, further pointing out that at many places, citizens acted in the most casual manner.

The affidavit pointed out that citizens had gathered in large numbers at markets, even for purchasing decoration material, which aren't essential items.

"Thus, the opening of religious places would further scale up the cases and the state, which has limited resources would face difficulties in containing the virus," the AG argued.

The bench was dealing with a plea filed by an NGO seeking directives to the state government to throw open the places of worship, irrespective of religion, with certain guidelines.

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Free Press Journal