The Supreme Court today refused to stay the July 3 Jharkhand High Court verdict denying permission for the conduct of the annual Shravani mela at Deogarh’s Baidyanath Temple amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Justice Mishra from the quorum consisting Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari observed,
“Virtual Darshan is no Darshan. Devotees could be allowed to participate on limited basis following social distancing guidelines. The country is opening but religious places are shut. Why? Temples, mosques and churches should also be opened for important occasions like this.”
Justice Mishra observed that when the entire country was unlocking, how could places of worship be kept closed, especially on important occasions at worship places .
The petitioners argued before the Apex Court that about 30,000 pandas (priests) are allowed inside the temple, but no devotee can enter in worship places .
To this, the Bench expressed shock and asked how such exclusion can take place when so many priests are allowed in worship places .
Referring to a recent Supreme Court order allowing the Rath Yatra in Odisha with certain conditions, Dubey had urged the High Court to allow the kanwar yatra and open the revered worship places like shrine for devotees during the holy month of Shravan starting July 6.
The writ petition also urged the High Court to allow opening of the Basukinath Temple in Dumka, about 40 km from Deoghar, as devotees who offer prayers at Baidyanath Temple also visit the neighbouring shrine.
The Court ultimately refused to stay the High Court order. However, it directed the state government to consider opening places of worship in areas where lockdown has been lifted or eased by following the social distancing guidelines and other protocols laid down by the government.