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SC allows Prayushan prayers in Mumbai's 3 Jain temples with strict compliance of COVID-19 norms

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday allowed devotees to offer Paryushan prayers in three Jain temples in Mumbai on the condition of "strict compliance" with the standard operating procedures meant to contain COVID-19 pandemic.

Making exception for the three Jain temples located at Dadar, Byculla and Chembur in Mumbai, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said however that the permission for 'Ganpati ' festival will have to be taken on a case-to-case basis from the Maharashtra Disaster Management Authority.

"Upcoming Ganpati festival in Maharashtra is altogether different and it will become uncontrollable and we understand the situation for that but in this case the situation is different," said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

The apex court said that no permission for prayers would be given for any other temple in Mumbai.

The bench was hearing an appeal against the Bombay High Court order which had said that it did not wish to interfere with the state's decision of not to permit Jain temples in Mumbai to open for devotees to mark the eight-day Paryushan festival from August 15 to 23 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The petitioners before us have filed for the permission in three temples...The Solicitor General have fairly stated that the Government of India is not treating it as adversarial litigation and if the petitioners are observing the requirements of SOP then it has no problem," the bench said in its order.

"We direct the petitioners shall follow the SOP... We are of the view that the statement made (by petitioners) are in form of an undertaking and the petitioners will comply with it. It would not be hazardous to allow them to offer worship at temples at Dadar, Byculla and Chembur," it said.

The top court also made clear the order permitting prayer was order "specific" to the three temples only and will not be made applicable to other temples.

"Our order will not apply to other temples where large congregation takes place... Ganesh Chatuthrthi and others festivals will be dealt by the state on case-to-case basis," it said.

At the outset, the bench indicated that it may allow the prayers as done in the case of Puri Jagannath Yatra if the petitioner can give an undertaking that COVID-19 SOP will be followed.

It said Maharashtra government will have to take a decision on case-to- case basis and if five people go into a Jain temple at a time then it would not cause problem.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the state government, said there are over 40 lakh Jains in Maharashtra with around five lakh in Mumbai itself and the issue should be left to the executive as it has to look at the interest of everybody.

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