MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Thursday left the decision on opening up places of worship during the pandemic to the state government. The state had opposed a PIL filed by Association for Aiding Justice to ensure places of worship are opened for devotees. The lawyer for the NGO, Dipesh Siroya, said religious places could he opened “with guidelines”. The HC declined to intervene in the PIL.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni directed the state to take a call on the basis of the situation.
Earlier this month, the state informed the HC that given the rise in Covid-19 cases across Maharashtra, it had decided not to open religious places of worship. Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni on Thursday reiterated the stand submitted in its affidavit that opening up may result in a rise in cases.
The state figures showed 21,029 new cases on Wednesday and 2.73 lakh active cases. Over 9.56 lakh patients were discharged after full recovery until September 23.
The affidavit by Kishore Nimbalkar, secretary disaster management department, had said there was no guarantee how citizens would react and whether they would abide by guidelines if places of worship were opened. “The experience of the government and its machinery in the past demonstrates such restrictions are only observed in breach,” the affidavit stating, adding it was next to impossible to monitor. It also said a consequence of non-observance of conditions would be an “irreversible spread of the deadly infection”.
The state had said that the Ganesh festival last month was an “eye opener’’ as people appeared “more casual than responsible”. A majority of people were seen with face masks, the state had said citing Dadar market area and Pune’s Tulsi baug as examples where “overcrowding” was observed. The state reply said all citizens can worship their Gods from their homes, for now.