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Conscious decision not to allow religious events amid Covid-19: Maha to SC on plea by gurudwara

Conscious decision not to allow religious events amid Covid-19: Maha to SC on plea by gurudwara
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New Delhi: The Maharashtra government has told the Supreme Court that allowing the Nanded gurudwara to hold the Dusshera procession as per custom will not be a "practically feasible option amid COVID-19 and that the state has taken a conscious decision of not allowing religious functions to check the spread of the virus.

The state government said that as per its past experience it is impossible to monitor the strict observance of conditions and restrictions imposed and the only consequence is the spread of the deadly infection, a situation that is irreversible.

It said that as on October 16, 2020, the total population affected by COVID-19 in Maharashtra was 15,76,062 and the total number of deaths registered on account of the virus are 41,502.

The state government said that in Nanded district the number of persons affected by COVID-19 is 18,167 and the total number of deaths is 478. In Nanded Municipal Area, the number of persons affected by COVID-19 is 8,375 and the total number of deaths is 224.

It said that a conscious decision has been taken of not allowing religious functions and not permitting congregation, at least for the present, and the said decision is fully justified and needs no interference at the hands of this Court in the exercise of its extraordinary constitutional writ jurisdiction.

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao is likely to take up a plea on Monday at the time when the top court is on Dusshera vacation.

The bench has sought response from the Maharashtra government on October 16, on the plea filed by Nanded Sikh Gurudwara Sachkhand Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib Board' seeking permission to conduct 'Dusshera, Takht Isnan, Deepmala and Gurta Gaddi' event procession as per three centuries old custom maintained by the gurudwara with certain conditions.

It has said, Having the hostile political environment in state of Maharashtra, ample religious discontent has been spread due to political interest and the petitioner believes that he will not be able to grapple with situation without recourse thereto which is evident from the fact that despite repeated written representations, no decision has been taken till date .

The plea said Gurudwara Takhat Shri Hazur Abchalnagar is a pious place of world fame for being last place of tenth Sikh Guru Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji Maharaj, where he granted holy seat of Guru to the Gurugranth Sahiv ji before going to Sachkhand .

The state government, in its affidavit, said that it has taken a conscious policy decision of not allowing religious functions and large congregations, without any exception.

The policy decision is based on assessment of the situation at hand as also the consequence of permitting such activities. Since, the restrictions were imposed in March 2020 and till date, everybody has followed the restrictions strictly , it said, referring, to several festivals including Gudhi Padwa, Ram Navami, Mahaveer Jayanti, Easter Sunday, Buddha Purnima, Ramadan Eid, Bakri Eid, Dahi Handi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Moharram and Navratri.

It said that all the religious festivals are performed by citizens by staying at home, so as to contain the spread of virus and there is no reason at all, much less just and proper to carve out an exception for the petitioner. The state government said the COVID-19 situation in Maharashtra cannot be ignored and ought to be considered in its proper perspective when considering the prayers in the present petition.

Allowing the claim of the petitioner by imposing conditions is not a practically feasible option. The experience of the State Government and its machinery in the past demonstrates that, such restrictions and conditions are observed only in breach thereof e.g. vegetable markets etc. and secondly, it is impossible to monitor the strict observance of such conditions, it said.

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