As India unlocks, how can places of worship be closed: SC
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday observed that e-darshan is no darshan and asked the Jharkhand government why it is not allowing devotees on a limited basis at Baidyanath temple during the Shravani Mela.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari said: “E-darshan is no darshan! Why not allow darshan on a limited basis, following social distancing guidelines?”
Justice Mishra noted that when the entire country was unlocking, how could places of worship could be kept closed, especially on important occasions. He also questioned why temples, mosques and churches shouldn’t also be opened for important occasions.
On July 3, the Jharkhand High Court denied permission to hold the annual Shravani Mela at the Baidyanath Temple in Deogarh, against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. The High Court had directed the Jharkhand government to organise virtual prayers for devotees. The apex court has declined to stay the High Court verdict.
Senior advocate Salman Khurshid, representing the Jharkhand government, cited that lockdown in the state has been extended till August 31, and it is not possible to revoke orders just two days before the festival. He submitted before the bench that in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state government has decided to close all temples and mosques.
The top court directed the state government to examine opening places of worship in areas where lockdown has been lifted or eased.
The order of the apex court came on a plea filed by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey challenging the High Court order to organise virtual darshan at the Baidyanath temple in Deogarh.
The plea in the High Court had also sought opening of the Basukinath Temple in Dumka, which is nearly 40 km from Deoghar, as the devotees who offer prayers at Baidyanath Temple generally also visit the neighbouring shrine. The High Court had said that the priests could perform puja in the temple and devotees can watch it through virtual means.