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SC Refuses To Stay HC Order Denying Permission For Shravani Mela At Baidyanath Temple Amid COVID-19

Sanya Talwar
31 July 2020 11:45 AM GMT
SC Refuses To Stay HC Order Denying Permission For Shravani Mela At Baidyanath Temple Amid COVID-19

The Supreme Court on Friday refused permission to hold the annual Shravani Mela at Baidyanath Temple in wake of the pandemic situation.

A bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra, BR Gavai & Krishna Murari was hearing a plea challenging the Jharkhand High Court order, denying permission to hold the annual festival at Baidyanath Temple with requisite precautions.

The top court refused to stay the HC order.

However, the Court observed that the Jharkhand government may consider opening places of worship as well when the lockdown restrictions are lifted from the State.

"This suggestion of opening temples, when lockdown is eased, must be in sync with social distancing norms and other precautionary guidelines" - Supreme Court said.

The plea, filed by Bhartiya Janta Party MP Nishikant Dubey sought permission to hold the annual festival whilst adhering to social distancing norms, assailing the Jharkhand HC order which directed the state Government to facilitate prayers only "virtually" for devotees.

Advocate Samir Malik appeared on behalf of the Petitioner and informed the bench that about 30000 priests are allowed in the Baidyanath temple, but no devotee is allowed.

"Why this exclusionary treatment?", asked Justice Mishra.

Justice Mishra asked Senior Advocate Salman Khursheed appearing for the State of Jharkhand to seek instructions "within half an hour" on whether the same could be done.

"E-Darshan is not equivalent to Real Darshan" observed Justice Mishra during the hearing.

To this, Khurshid replied that State Govt had decided to close all temples and mosques and that there was no question of opening darshan due to the rising COVID-19 cases.

Further to this, Khurshid apprised the bench that since Lockdown is imposed in Jharkhand till August 31, revoking this order just 2 days before the mela will create chaos and therefore it will not be possible to open the temple for darshan.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dr Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad of HC passed the order, denying permission to hold the annual festival on a petition filed by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey.

Dubey had referred to a recent Supreme Court order allowing Rath Yatra in Odisha with certain conditions, urging the high court to allow the "Kanwar Yatra" and open the shrine for devotees during the holy month of Shravan starting July 6 as per rituals.

The writ petition prayed for the opening of the Basukinath Temple in Dumka, about 40 km from Deoghar, as devotees who offer prayers at Baidhyanath Temple also visit the neighbouring shrine.

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