Mumbai: The Supreme Court Friday allowed limited entry of devotees to three Jain temples in Mumbai’s Dadar, Chembur and Byculla August 22 and 23 (Saturday and Sunday) to offer prayers on the occasion of Paryushan festival.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said that entry into temples will be subject to the undertaking given by the petitioner – a trust dedicated to Jain community – as per which they agreed to allow only five people at a time inside the temple with an upper limit of 250 people per day.
“We are of the view that if the undertaking of faithfully complied with, it would not be hazardous to permit prayers at the three temples,” the bench which also comprised justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said.
It cited the example of allowing Odisha Rath Yatra and said, “This is exactly the choice we had with Odisha Rath Yatra. We believe that if we can ensure that distancing is maintained and people do not gather then merely putting the Rath is not damaging.”
The court also made it clear that its order will not apply to any other temples or festivals involving large congregation.
“We are referring in particular to the congregation that happens during Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai and other places,” the court noted.
The Maharashtra government had opposed the plea saying that the state is worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and it will be difficult for authorities to ensure adherence to precautions to check the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The bench was, however, critical of the stance by the state pointing out that the government was allowing other economic activities but disallowing religious activities.
“We find it strange that you are allowing every activity involving economic interests. But if it involves religion, you say you cannot do it because of Covid,” CJI Bobde said.
The Bombay high court had earlier rejected the interim prayer by petitioner to allow entry to Jain temples during the days of Paryushan festival from August 15 to 22.