The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the authorities to decide on a representation preferred by an NGO, seeking direction to consider permitting visitors in religious places in Delhi subject to strict compliance of Covid-19 protocols, in accordance with law, rules, regulations and government policies applicable.
The Division Bench led by Chief Justice D.N. Patel and also comprising Justice Jyoti Singh, asked the authorities concerned to decide the representation preferred by the petitioner organisation on July 25, in accordance with law, rules, regulations and government policies applicable to the facts of the case, as expeditiously as possible and practicable.
DDMA partially opened bars, restaurants, cinema halls, but not temples: NGO
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), nodal department which is issuing Covid-related directions for compliance in the national capital, in an order passed on August 30, allowed reopening of restaurants, bars, cinema halls and assembly halls with 50 percent seating capacity, under phased easing of restrictions imposed in lieu of the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. In its order, DDMA further permitted reopening of sports complexes, weekly markets and spas functioning across Delhi, subject to strict adherence of Covid-19 protocols.
The public interest litigation was filed by Distress Management Collective, an NGO that provides support and humanitarian aid to people in distress across borders, through Advocates Robin Raju and Deepa Joseph.
The plea alleged that the August 30 order passed by DDMA, although unlocked Delhi to a great extent, yet the restriction on visiting religious places continued.
“There is a prolonged prohibition on visitors from going to religious places and that too when the number of Covid cases in Delhi have remarkably come down and almost all other places have been opened,”
-the plea had stated.
Claiming that this action of Government was illegal, arbitrary and violative of Article 25 of the Constitution, the plea read, “The respondents, by continuing to prohibit visitors from religious places, that too when the number of Covid cases in Delhi have remarkably come down, give an impression that they see religious places solely as places of worship and not a necessity. It is herein pertinent to mention that religious places are also institutions that provide mental solace to people at large…It is an undeniable fact that a person will get the above said experience only by visiting their desired religious place of worship. An online worship service will never be able to provide the same experience when compared with worship service where believers are physically present at the place of worship.”
The plea highlighted that a representation was made before the Lieutenant Governor Delhi, as also the Delhi Government on July 25, raising the issue of continued prohibition on visiting religious places; however, no action has been taken by the concerned authorities as yet.
In light of the above, the plea had sought directions to the Government to consider permitting visitors in religious places in Delhi subject to strict compliance of Covid-19 protocols; or in the alternative, to take necessary action on its representation.
Recently, Justice Kurian Joseph (Retd), former Supreme Court judge, wrote to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, requesting him to allow worship at religious places in the national capital, while respecting Covid-19 protocols, as there is a significant drop in Covid-19 cases across the city.
“Permitting religious worships and services in places of public worship would not otherwise cause any adverse impact, factoring other activities permitted. It is a matter of fact that allowing people to attend religious worships and services would only help in alleviating their deep stress and it would only infuse them with positivity, hope, inner strength, and confidence, which is the need of the hour,”
-said the retired Supreme Court judge in his letter.