The Bombay High Court on Wednesday allowed Jain temples to reopen dining halls during Ayambil Oli Tap, a nine-day fasting festival observed by the community, from October 23. Temples will have to follow standard operating procedures (SOP) issued by the state government for restaurants during the pandemic, the court said. They will, however, not be opened for devotees to offer prayers, the court has clarified.
A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and V G Bisht passed the order while hearing an interim plea by Atma Kamal Labdhisurishawji Jain Gyanmandir Trust and Sheth Motisha Religious and Charitable Trust seeking permission to reopen dining halls located on Jain temple premises in Mumbai to serve special food or lunch.
Advocate Praful Shah, appearing for the petitioners, submitted food will be served during the nine-day festival, from October 23 to October 31, between 10 am and 3 pm at dining halls measuring 1,000 sq ft or more and 40 people per hour will be allowed at a time by use of tokens. The court accepted the same.
On Wednesday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni opposed the plea and said the state government was not inclined to grant the permission to open dining halls in view of Covid-19. “There cannot be any congregation. If we allow it to one (community), we will have to allow it to everybody. We have so many religions in our country. I do not think the government will be able to grant permission. I leave it to the court’s judgment. However, if the court allows it, I hope that the relief will be given to a minimum number of persons and places,” Kumbhakoni said.
He added, “At this point of time, the government is of the view that it is not advisable to open up temples/places of worship for the general public.”
The bench referred to photographs of crowded trains and Metro showing violations of distancing norms and said, “Your SOPs are just on paper. When you say petitioners should celebrate in a symbolic manner, are we allowing travel by train or opening of restaurants in a symbolic manner? We are aware that it is not possible. But it cannot be time immemorial. The Prime Minister said the lockdown is over. The coronavirus continues.”
The court said it was allowing them to serve food on Ayambil Oli Tap following Covid-19 protocols. It, however, said the court had no intention to interfere with the government policies.
Referring to SOPs for restaurants, Metro service, and trains, the court noted, “Since the petitioners are not wanting to form any congregation… we are of the view that not allowing devotees of Jain community by maintaining norms of distancing and following applicable SOPs, will amount to grave discrimination causing injustice…”
While disposing of the plea, it said, “…allowing Jain devotees to use dining halls for the purpose and in the manner suggested by them, will not cause any injury or prejudice to anyone.”
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