New Delhi: The Kerala High Court has dismissed a PIL that challenged a government order allowing a gathering of up to 100 persons at places of worship.
The PIL contended that the state government is not competent to permit any religious congregation, whether by fixing 100 as a maximum limit or not, because there is an absolute bar on religious assembly.
The petition was filed by Advocates Jayakumar TV and Mansoor BH.
The division bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chali observed that the petitioners had not made out a case for declaring the order illegal, but challenged the compatibility of the government to issue certain guidelines. The court said: “One will have to give a meaningful intent when the Central government has issued guidelines for opening activities in religious places/places of worships for public, whether a person belongs to Hindu/Muslim/Christian or any other religion.”
The contention that there was an absolute bar on religious assembly could not be accepted. As under Section 38 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the state government was empowered to frame guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Additional Advocate General, on behalf of the state, submitted that in places of worship a maximum of 100 persons were allowed and worshipers have to maintain a physical distancing of six feet in such places. In fact, only 15 persons would be allowed in any 100 sq m aera. If 100 people were to gather, it should be at a 7,000-sq ft. site.
He further submitted that in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 20(3) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Chief Secretary and Chairperson, State Executive Committee of the State Disaster Management Authority is empowered to issue orders and that there is no repugnancy attracting Article 254 of the Constitution of India and it cannot be said to be in contradiction to Exhibit-P4 dated 29.06.2020.
Read the Order here;kerala-hc_compressed
– India Legal Bureau