NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to consider afresh whether to permit
and other religious ceremonies at one of the holiest Sikh Shrines at
taking into consideration the Centre's September 30 guidelines permitting religious gatherings of up to 100 persons.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi agreed with Maharashtra's counsel Devadatt Kamat on state's reservation about permitting religious congregation given the fact that the state was worst affected by Covid pandemic. The bench said, "We do not intend to interfere with the decision of the state government to not permit any religious procession at this stage."
However, it asked the the Nanded Sikh Gurudwara Sachkhand
Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib Board
the State Disaster Management Committee
with its proposal to restrict the congregation to 50 Covid negative persons and limiting the time and route of the procession for October 25 Dussehra celebrations. Appearing for the Centre, solicitor general Tushar Mehta referred to the September 30 Unlock Guidelines which allowed congregations and gatherings from October 15 of not more than 100 persons for an event.
After hearing the petition on a holiday, the bench in a late evening order said, "the Unlock Guidelines issued by the Union of India on September 30 shall be kept in mind by the Secretary, Disaster Management Authority while giving an opportunity of hearing to the Petitioner on 20.10.2020... The secretary shall take a decision by not being influenced by the decisions taken in the past for grant of permissions relating to religious events."
Citing three US Supreme Court decisions, the bench said, "Safety and health of the people is entrusted by the Constitution to the politically accountable officials of the States to guard and protect... When the State undertakes to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties, their latitude must be especially broad... The Courts lack the background, competence and expertise to assess public health."
The Board through advocate Praveen Chaturvedi said the Nanded Gurudwara, considered as one of the holiest religious sites in the Sikh faith and is regarded with deep reverence for being the site at which the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs, Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji Maharaj, granted the holy seat of Guru to the Gurugranth Sahib before leaving this World, needed to continue its 300 year old tradition of conducting Dussehra, Takhat Isnan, Deepmala Mahalla, Gurta Gaddi Kirtan and Gurta-Gaddi Samapthi Kirtan Darbar & Nagar Kirtan events.
Kamat said the state has not permitted any religious congregation during festivities such as GudiPadwa, Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanti, Mahaveer Jayanti, Easter Sunday, Buddha Purnima, Akshaya Tritiya, Ramadan Eid, Dindis to Pandharpur, Ashadi Ekadashi, Nag Panchami, Bakr Eid, Raksha Bandhan, Gokulashtami, Dahi Handi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Moharram,
etc. He said it would be difficult to permit the Nanded Gurudwara to conduct the traditional celebrations and rituals with congregations.