MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to intervene in the Maharashtra government’s decision to not open places of worship to the public in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni said the court did not wish to interfere in the state’s decision keeping in mind the “prevailing situation” of constant rise in coronavirus cases, even in rural areas.
The observation came after Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted that worshippers could not be allowed to visit temples, or any other places of worship as yet.
“Unfortunately, we are creating new records every day (of number of positive coronavirus cases). It will not be possible right now to open places of worship considering the situation,” the AG said.
The bench was hearing a PIL seeking that places of worship be reopened to public and that the state government ensure implementation of social distancing and other Covid-19 safety measures.
The plea filed by a local NGO through advocate Dipesh Siroya had suggested that the state government limit the number of devotees permitted to enter a place of worship at a time.
In a previous hearing however, the state had said it would not be possible to limit the number of devotees and that there was no guarantee that the public would follow norms once allowed inside places of worship.
The Chief Justice accepted the state’s submission and agreed that the rise in coronavirus cases was indeed alarming.
“Every day we are reading about the rise in numbers. It is alarming. We get so many messages saying that the situation in the state is bad,” Chief Justice Datta said.
He further stated that the court had recently received a WhatsApp video from one Omprakash Shete, who claimed to be from the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Medical Assistance Cell.
In the video, Shete had claimed that the medical infrastructure in the state was inadequate to handle the Covid-19 situation and said several people across the state were dying due to lack of treatment for coronavirus, he said.
“He claims that the system in the state is collapsing. That people are not getting treatment and are dying. If this is true then something needs to be done,” the Chief Justice said.
He directed the AG to verify the authenticity of the video and to ascertain if Shete was indeed part of the state government.
“Because, if he is a part of the state’s system and this video is authentic, then you will have to address the situation,” the Chief Justice told the AG.