On July 31, the Supreme Court asked the Jharkhand Government to figure out a way for allowing limited entry of the general public in temples, churches, and mosques while ensuring social distancing.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra also directed the Jharkhand Government to find out a possibility of ‘darshan’ for the general public in Baidhyanath Jyotirlinga Temple at Deoghar and Baba Basukinath Temple. It opined that this ought to be organised for the general public in the same way as it is being done for another Jyotirlinga temple in Ujjain. “We are informed that in Ujjain, 300 persons are being allowed on the basis of prior online booking, giving them different timings. Let the State Government work out on this and if possible, to permit darshan on the day of Purnima and in the month of Bhado also”, the bench directed.
The bench observed that prima facie total restriction on darshan by the public is unreasonable.
The court was hearing a plea against the Jharkhand High Court’s decision disallowing the public participation in Shravani Puja. The High Court had opined that it would not be appropriate to allow some people of the public to participate in Shravani Puja and depriving the others.
HC had also directed for online darshan during the entire course of Shravani Puja.
The petitioner contended that though activities at public places and worship places are prohibited, at the same time, gatherings related to marriage have been allowed subject to maintaining social distance. Such permissions stipulate that the maximum number of persons at marriage gatherings shall not be more than 50 and provide restrictions with respect to public transport etc.
Thus, the petition argued, restrictions imposed by the State Government on the entry in the places of worship for public are unwarranted.
Petitioner also brought to the notice of the court that there are at least 20,000-30,000 Pandas, who are being allowed entries in the premises of Baidhyanath Jyotirlinga Temple but, at the same time, general public is deprived of even limited entry in the temple premises.
The apex court observed- “It is true that the High Court has rightly ordered that Shravani Puja cannot be held holding big congregation fair not even the Kanwar yatra could be permitted due to Covid 19, It appears prima facie that total restriction on darshan by public is prima facie unreasonable”
The court expressed its unhappiness over the situation that thousands of pandas are being permitted entry in the temple every day. This cannot be said to be a very conducive situation so as to prevent the spread of virus Covid 19. The entry of such a large number of pandas, as alleged, should not be permitted.
On the HC’s order, the apex court said it ought not to have directed that no entry should be permitted in the months of Shravan and Bhado. “It was basically for the State Government to take a call on this. It would not be appropriate to issue directions to provide the entry”, said the bench which also comprised Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari.
The court stressed that the State has the duty to enforce social distancing norms on such important occasions/festivals.