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New Delhi, August 27, 2020
The Supreme Court on Thursday declined permission to hold Muharram processions across the country during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and Justices A. S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said, "Cannot grant general directions....case different from Puri (Rath Yatra) or Jain temples, as they had identified areas of access."
The bench reiterated that it is not possible to pass general direction, as it will "create chaos and one particular community will be targeted for spreading COVID."
The petitioner cited the orders of the top court in the Rath Yatra at Puri. The bench replied that the Puri case was one specific place where the rath had to go from one point to another. "If it was one specific place, we can assess the danger and pass the order," noted the bench.
The petitioner then cited the apex court order giving permission to offer prayers in select Jain temples in Mumbai. The bench replied that it was limited to prayers. The court also disallowed the petitioner to hold a procession in Lucknow. When petitioner said Shias were concentrated in Lucknow and permission be given there, the Supreme Court asked him to approach the Allahabad High Court.
On August 25, the Supreme Court took up a plea seeking permission to carry out Muharram processions in a limited manner in the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Bobde and Justices Bopanna and Ramasubramanian allowed the petitioner Sipte Mohammad to implead all 28 state governments as a party in the matter within a period of four weeks.
The petitioner had moved the top court seeking a direction to allow the conduct of the mourning procession by the Shia Muslim community. In the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions have been imposed on large gatherings.
Wasi Haider, counsel appearing for the petitioner, contended before the bench that the permission is sought for the procession where only five participants are allowed ensuring that they follow the safety norms.
The bench observed that the petitioner has not made all the state governments parties in the matter. The state governments are empowered to enforce the Centre's guidelines under the Disaster Management Act. The top court noted that it needed to hear the state governments before it passed any order in the matter. The bench said the procession would take place in various states and it cannot pass orders without hearing them.