A Special Leave Petition was filed in the Supreme Court. This was against an order of Jharkhand High Court prohibiting the participation of devotees in Shravani Puja in Deoghar district. The judges modified the impugned order and left the state to pass necessary orders.
Brief Facts of the case
The application prays for entry into the Baidhyanath Jyotirlinga Temple and Bana Basukinath Temple during the Shravan month. The Jharkhand High Court allowed only online darshan during Shravan. Further, the Court ordered that the Puja of Jyotirlinga would continue without any public participation.
A prayer was made to the HC requesting permission to a limited number of devotees to take part in the puja. The Court but deemed it inappropriate. It would amount to a deprivation of the right of those not participating. A prayer also requested permission for the participation of those residing in the Deoghar district but was declined. The Court stated that those people receive differential treatment when it comes to religious faith.
Arguments of the Parties
The petitioner bought to the attention of the Court how while religious functions are prohibited, marriages and public transport is allowed maintaining social distancing norm. Even gatherings of 50 people are allowed. Hence, such restrictions on puja are unwarranted.
The respondent submitted the directions passed by the Home Ministry that extending the lockdown till 31.8.2020. But, the petitioner argued that 20,000-30,000 pandas have been allowed entry in the Baidhyanath Temple; yet, no public is allowed in the premises. A video verified the same.
The Court stated that the total restriction placed by the High Court on darshan by the public is prima facie unreasonable. The argument showing the presence of a large number of pandas on the premise of the temple alarmed them. It might not be an ideal situation to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
The Court asked the authorities to regulated this. Only limited persons must be allowed while maintaining social distancing norms. The state has to make sure that there are no large congregation, even of pandas. Further, the Court held that the High Court was wrong in restricting entry in the temple in the months of Bhado and Sharvan. The High Court should have let the state decide. If the government can make social distancing norms and proper arrangements, it should not be stopped.
Moreover, the Court noticed that other states have opened religious places around the country maintaining social distancing norms. The state must enforce such norms when places are opening throughout India. They need to put in the effort to try and make some arrangements so that the general public can avail of the places of worship.
The Court disposed of the SLP. It modified the order of the High Court that imposed blanket restrictions on the entry to the temple. They requested the state to see if the limited entry of the devotees can take place. This request extends beyond the temples in question. It includes an entry in all such places of worship around the state.
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