Won't open any place of worship: Maharashtra govt tells Bombay HC

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it has no intentions to open up places of worship for the public at large, irrespective of the religion. The HC has accordingly ordered the state to spell its stand on an affidavit and to clarify what sort of guidelines it proposes to issue to ensure social distancing is followed in the temples.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO - Association for Aiding Justice. The plea sought directives to the Maharashtra government to open up the places of worship of all the religions and allow devotees to enter the holy shrines.

The plea also sought guidelines to be issued by the state while permitting worshipping places to open for the public.

Opposing the plea, Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the bench that the state would not open any place of worship. "We have no intentions of opening up places of worship for the public, irrespective of the religion," AG told the judges.

The AG apprised the bench of a decision taken by the state on August 12, wherein it had rejected the pleas of the Jain community seeking the reopening of its temples, in view of Paryushan. "Our stand was accepted by another bench of this HC and the Jain community's petition was also dismissed," the AG told the judges.

"Our order against the Jain community's plea is applicable to all religions. It is a generally worded order," AG Kumbhakoni pointed out.

Notably, the HC bench of Justice Shahrukh Kathawalla had refused to allow the opening of Jain temples and had instead, asked the community to pray at home, saying 'god is everywhere.'

Having heard the contention, CJ Datta asked Kukmbhakoni to spell the state's stand on an affidavit, to be filed before September 4.

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Free Press Journal