Case: Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust Versus State of Maharashtra and Ors.
A bench of Justice RD Dhanuka and VG Bisht on Wednesday dismissed a petition filed by the Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust which had prayed to allow a meager 50 people in the Masjid to offer prays five times a day. However, the petition was refused because of the exponentially rising cases of Covid-19.
The Petition was filed under Article 226 along with Article 25 of the Constitution of India. The Petitioner had prayed that since 14th April marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramzaan, that the Muslims be allowed to offer prayers in the Juma Masjid 5 times a day till the end of Ramzaan adhering to Social distancing and SOPs in force.
The Petitioner brought into purview that The State of Maharashtra had directed that all the Religious places of Worship remain closed w.e.f. 14th April – 2021 till 1st May 2021. While presenting arguments, the bench said that the Delhi High Court’s order on case of Delhi Waqf Board v/s. The government of NCT of Delhi and Anr. could not be considered as a precedent as the order had the approval of the Union of India to offer prayers with the perusal of Covid protocols. Thus, the Court sided with Mr Chavan, learned AGP for Respondent no.1-State.
Mr Chavan had presented that Maharashtra had the highest number of Covid cases and having recorded 60,228 cases, out of which 11,000 were in Mumbai itself, the scenario in Delhi and Mumbai were very different. The fresh SOP by the state also stated that people needed to stay at home to control the present situation.
Arguments before the Court
The Petitioners, represented by Advocate Mohiuddin Ahmed Vaid that the subject mosque is spread over 1 acre. At a time on a normal day, 7000 people offer namaaz which showed that it was quite spacious and all the SOP’s meant to break the chain of Covid can be very easily followed and adhered to under the supervision of local police as may be required.
The Petitioners argued that if marriages could be allowed with a limited number of people, why couldn’t the same be allowed for prayers.
Observations by the Court
The court while rejecting the plea states, “Considering the prevailing situation and the ground reality prevailing in the State of Maharashtra, we cannot permit the petitioner to perform any prayers in the said mosque in violation of the order dated 13th April 2013 issued by the Government of Maharashtra which is issued in the public interest and for the safety of all the residents of Maharashtra.”
While dismissing the petition, the court further cited the case of Dhananjay Mohan Deshmukh and Ors. v/s. The Subdivisional Officer, Igatpuri-Trimbakeshwar Sub-Division, Nashik, which concerned itself with the Tripurari Pournima Rath Yatra scheduled on 29th November 2020. The court had dismissed the petition stating that if the powers under Article 25 were granted at such a time, the health and public order would be seriously compromised. Thus, such permission would violate the conditions of Article 25 itself.
The court thus, concluded that public health was the top priority of the Court and that the petition was devoid of merits. The Petition was dismissed.
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