COVID-19 in Maharashtra: Bombay High Court ‘gives into’ government’s temple prayer

Observing that the alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court on Thursday said it was not inclined to interfere with the Maharashtra government's decision of not opening up places of worship of all religions due to the pandemic.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni took note of the rising cases of Covid-19 in the state, especially in rural areas.

The bench made this observation after hearing the submissions of state's advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who told the judges that Maharashtra has been setting new records on a daily basis, in terms of Covid cases. "Unfortunately, we are creating new records of Covid-19 cases, daily. Thus, considering the prevailing situation, we cannot open temples or any other places of worship," Kumbhakoni submitted.

Having heard the submission, Chief Justice Datta agreed with the AG that indeed cases have been rising at an alarming speed.

"We can just say that the situation is alarming especially if we look at the numbers, which are rising daily. We have received numerous messages stating that the situation in Maharashtra is really bad," CJ Datta observed.

During the course of the hearing, the judges referred to a video, which was sent to the HC through WhatsApp. The video purportedly showed one Omprakash Shete, who is being termed as an officer from the state's chief minister's medical assistance cell.

The video that went viral on social media, claimed that the state's medical infrastructure was about to collapse and the Covid-19 situation has gone out of control. The video even claimed that the common man was dying in state due to lack of treatment. Referring to the video, CJ Datta said, “If the contents of this video are authentic and true, then we think something needs to be done at the earliest.”

But for that you (AG) needs to verify the authenticity of the video and ascertain if this man is indeed the officer of the CM's medical assistance cell," CJ Datta ordered, while adjourning the matter for further hearing.

The bench was seized with a PIL filed by an NGO seeking directives to the state to open worship places of all religions with guidelines.

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