New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to examine whether the Nanded Gurudwara can be allowed to hold Dussehra festivities and the Guru Granth Sahib procession at 5 a.m., with limited gathering.
A vacation bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi said the Maharashtra state disaster management authority (SDMA) should take decision in the matter in the backdrop of the Covid-19 scenario.
The order has come on a plea filed by the Nanded Sikh Gurudwara Sachkhand Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib Board, which sought permission for Dussehra, Takht Isnan, Deepmala and Gurta Gaddi events. The board cited these events are three centuries-old custom maintained by the Gurudwara.
Advocate Praveen Chaturvedi, representing the petitioner, contended the state government has already allowed marriages with 50 people in attendance, and his client is not asking for public participation instead the procession, on a limited route, can be allowed with 40 to 50 people.
The bench queried who will control if the procession is on the road?
The bench noted that state government is saying there is a health risk in the backdrop of people affected in Nanded and added that in Puri there were restrictions but many people turned up.
Chaturvedi further clarified that his client has reduced the procession route to 1.5 km and they will use a truck on which Granth Sahib will be kept and the proceedings will be live telecast.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, cited the MHA August 29 order which allowed religious/political/social functions from September 21 and September 30 guidelines allowing gathering of up to 100 persons outside containment zones subject to conditions.
Mehta suggested that the procession br 1.5km, they could consider holding it between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., so that people other than those participating in the ritual are not involved.
The top court also asked the state government whether it could impose a curfew like the one which was imposed in Puri for the Jagannath Yatra procession.
The Maharashtra government in its affidavit has informed the top court that Dussehra procession will not be a “practically feasible option” amid COVID-19, as it has hit the state worst, and the government has taken a conscious decision to not allow religious functions.
The bench said would giving permission to one festival will lead to giving permission to others? Mehta said this was not a festival celebrated across Maharashtra, rather it is only restricted to Nanded and also to in a community with small numbers.
The Maharashtra government counsel said the state is genuinely concerned regarding public health, which is a state subject. The counsel added that the government’s experience has shown that these 50-60 people congregation is not possible, as greater number of people will turn up and added the government did not permit even the popular Ganapathi festival procession.
Concluding the hearing, the bench asked the state government can’t you have the procession at 5 a.m.?
The Maharashtra government counsel replied the petitioner should file representation before the state disaster management authority. The bench noted that it was something where the court cannot interfere, especially when the state is saying it is difficult.
The bench asked the SDMA to decide on the representation by Nanded gurudwara management board by Tuesday and told the petitioner they can move the Bombay High Court, if not satisfied.