MUMBAI: Bombay high court has allowed a restricted number of Parsis to offer the annual Farvardegan prayers for the dead on Thursday at Doongerwadi, Malabar Hill.
The order was passed on Wednesday by a bench of Justices Ramesh Dhanuka and Madhav Jamdar on a petition by Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP), filed through its trustee Viraf Mehta. The court recorded Mehta’s undertaking that not more than 200 community members would be allowed by appointment in batches of six with two priests at a time for 30-minute prayers in each of five pavilions from 7am to 4.30 pm. Those above 65 and below 10 will not be allowed. The judges said made it clear that the order shall not be used as a precedent.
On August 31, the state was directed to treat the petition as a representation and grant a hearing to BPP. Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni said the representation was rejected. He said BPP representatives “flatly refused” to hold prayers in a symbolic manner. “We are worried about spread of the virus,” he said. Additional solicitor general Anil Singh said the Centre is “concerned with health of people in the state, and not with any community”.
BPP’s advocate Prakash Shah said unlike Moharrum or Ganeshotsav which is a community event, at Doongerwadi those who want will voluntarily come and pray. Justice Jamdar remarked, “This is reasonable. The pavilions are 600-800 feet.”
The AG sought undertakings, including on social distancing norms, and no traffic obstruction and also “there will be no hugging and meeting”. “There should be no congregation. ‘Bahut din se mile, gale mile’ should not be done,” he said.