New Delhi: In light of a surge in COVID-19 numbers, the Bombay high court on Wednesday, April 14, rejected the Juma Masjid Trust’s plea to allow 50 devotees to offer prayers at a time during the ongoing holy month of Ramzan, the Indian Express reported.
A bench of justices R.D. Dhanuka and V.G. Bisht was hearing a petition by the trust which cited that devotees be allowed inside “in exercise of right to freedom of religion”. The trust said that the mosque could accommodate as many as 7,000 people at a time but pleaded that in the light of the health crisis, only 50 people be allowed inside to offer namaz or prayers during the holy month.
Taking into account the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state, and the Maharashtra government’s April 13 circular on lockdown-like curbs, the court denied permission to the mosque for holding prayers. The state government has directed that places of worship remain closed till May 1, 2021.
According to the report, the high court observed that “while the right to follow religious practices is important, the public order and safety of citizens during the COVID-19 surge is of paramount importance.”
The court order said, “…Article 25 of the Constitution of India though permits all persons equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, the same is subject to public order, morality and health.”
Therefore, if such congregation is allowed, then it would seriously affect the public order and health, violating the condition imposed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, the order added.
The Express report further said, citing the petitioners had also added that the mosque would follow all safety precautions and COVID-19 protocols.
The counsel representing the petitioner sought this relaxation in the light of the April 12 order of the Delhi high court which allowed prayers at the Hazrat Nizamuddin mosque with COVID-19 protocols.
The Delhi high court observed that “there cannot be a limit on the number of devotees allowed inside the Nizamuddin Markaz if no other religious place has a similar restriction in light of the COVID-19 surge.”
Meanwhile, thousands of devotees continue to attend the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand as COVID-19 cases surge.
Citing the Warkari Seva Sangh and Anr vs. The State of Maharashtra and Durga Jan Seva Trust vs. Government of NCT of Delhi cases, the Bombay high court noted that several other courts in the country have in the past rejected similar pleas with respect to religious congregations, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.