THE BOMBAY High Court on Wednesday allowed Parsis to hold prayers on Farvardegan at Doongerwadi, Malabar Hill, which houses the Tower of Silence, with strict conditions and by following Covid-19 protocols. The court said not more than 200 people will be allowed throughout the day on September 3 and not more than six persons from the community and two priests for five pavilions, measuring 600 to 800 sq ft, will be allowed per hour between 7 am and 4.30 pm.
A division bench of Justice R D Dhanuka and Justice Madhav J Jamdar passed an order in response to a plea filed by Viraf Mehta, trustee of Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP), through advocate Prakash Shah seeking permission to hold annual prayers for the dead at Doongerwadi in Mumbai.
Shah referred to the Supreme Court order that allowed the reopening of three Jain temples in Mumbai for the Paryushan period and said Parsis in Mumbai should also be allowed to hold annual prayers for the dead on September 3.
On Wednesday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the state government submitted that existing guidelines of state and central governments did not permit any religious functions or large congregations. He, however, said if the BPP agreed to hold representative prayers with a few people visiting the premises on behalf of the entire community, the state could have a “favourable approach”.
The court asked the trustee of the BPP to give an undertaking to adhere to other guidelines laid down by the state government and standard operating procedures by the central government, failing which action would be initiated against them as per law.
Shah submitted an additional affidavit and said the Doongerwadi is a large 55-acre area, a gated property owned by BPP and not more than 200 people will attend prayers in batches between 7 am and 4.30 pm by observing distancing and hygiene norms.
There will be five open pavilions measuring 600 to 800 sq ft each and only six persons will be allowed at a time for 30-minute prayers at each pavilion.
He also said there will be no religious function or large congregation like Ganeshotsav or Navratri and only prayers to the dead will be offered for 30 minutes.
The court also asked the BPP to carry out timely sanitisation of pavilions and asked it to admit people in batches with prior appointment to avoid a congregation.
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