The Punjab And Haryana High Court on Saturday said the imposition of restrictions on religious places is in larger public interest and such restrictions and those on holding of religious congregations cannot be ordered to be relaxed on the analogy of opening of business establishments.
“The freedom to religion is subject to public order, morality and public health. It is an extraordinary situation. In order to safeguard the health of the society, restrictions have been imposed by closing down all the places of worship for the public, including holding of religious congregations/gatherings,” said the division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Ajay Tiwari while dismissing a petition seeking relaxations in lockdown for the places of worship.
The court further said the restrictions do not amount to interference in the religious affairs of any community and that the restrictions have been imposed on religious places of all the religions. “The closure of religious places of worship during the period of spread of coronavirus, that too as a temporary measure, is a regulation and not prohibition. The restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs do not violate any fundamental or legal right of the petitioner or the similarly situated persons. The endeavor of the MHA is to break the cycle by maintaining social distancing,” the order reads.
Observing that the right of the state to impose restrictions “as are required or found necessary on the ground of public order, health and morality” is in built under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, the division bench said the imposition of restrictions constitutes “paternalistic act” and that they are in collective interest of the society at large.
“Merely that in certain areas, restrictions have been relaxed cannot be a ground to relax the same qua religious places of worship. The discretion not to permit opening of all the places of worship for public and prohibiting holding of religious congregations/gatherings has been exercised judiciously,” the court said further.
The High Court on Friday had heard the PIL seeking directions that all the religious worship places like mosques, gurdwaras and temples be opened on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr and martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjun Dev Ji. The PIL filed by Mubeen Farooqi through advocate Rajvinder Singh Bains also had prayed that the restrictions placed upon the right of citizens to worship and pray at the places of worship be declared as unconstitutional.
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