The Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Thursday that it could not permit Jain temples in the city to open for devotees to mark the festival of Paryushan in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state said that opening the temples from August 15 to 23 this year, as requested by the Jain community, would lead to an “imminent danger” of the spread of the virus.
The state’s counsel Purnima Kantahria submitted a written reply before a bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and Madhav Jamdar, saying that the state had decided against opening the temples as it could lead to further spread of coronavirus, which might result in loss of lives.
The bench was hearing two petitions filed by members representing the Jain community from the city.
The petitioners had sought permission to enter their temples during the eight-day Paryushan festival.
On Thursday, advocate Prakash Shah, counsel in one of the petitions, urged the court to ask the state to consider permitting just “10 to 20” people in the temples at a time.
“The temple trusts will ensure that more than 20 people do not enter,” advocate Shah said.
The court, however, said it did not wish to interfere with the state’s decision right now.
“This won’t be possible. If you noticed, yesterday, there were no Govindas on the streets,” the bench said referring to the restrictions on the Janmashtami celebrations this year in view of the COVID 19 pandemic.
The bench, however, said that the state would give a “guaranteed fair hearing” to the petitioners on the representation made by them.
The court also said that the state had submitted that it would consider the demand for opening of places of worship once it revised its lockdown guidelines again based on the COVID-19 situation.
“Wait till September, we are sure the state will consider your representation when it revises its guidelines,” it said.
Responding to the petitioners’ arguments that the Jain community constituted just one per cent of the city’s population and that a special consideration be made for its request as the Paryushan days were very auspicious, the bench said, “All days are auspicious. Spirituality comes from within.”
“We care about all communities. We are bothered about your security,” the bench said.