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e-darshan is no darshan, says Supreme Court

Hundreds of devotees throng the Baidyanath Temple in Deoghar district of Jharkhand. File

Hundreds of devotees throng the Baidyanath Temple in Deoghar district of Jharkhand. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Friday questioned the logic behind keeping places of worship closed even post lockdown, saying “e-darshan is no darshan”.

“When the country is opening up, why are only religious places shut? It is different if there is a complete lockdown. But when other things are being opened, temples, mosques and churches should also be opened, at least on important occasions,” Justice Arun Mishra, heading a three-judge Bench, said orally.

The court was hearing a plea by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey against a Jharkhand High Court order restricting worshippers to virtual darshan at Baidyanath temple in Deogarh during Shravani mela.

The court requested the Jharkhand government to allow worshippers into the temple on a limited basis and set up a mechanism by which there was no huge congregation and devotees maintained physical distancing.

Justice Mishra wondered how States could prevent people from exercising their fundamental right to faith and prayer at public places of worship when the country had opened up or was opening up after the pandemic-induced lockdown.

“These [places of worship] are places of importance. This is a matter of faith of the people. Even Mecca has opened in a limited way... Why not allow darshan on a limited basis? At least that is expected of a Welfare State. If it is not a lockdown, how can you prevent people from going there?” Justice Mishra asked senior advocate Salman Khurshid, who led the Jharkhand government side.

Mr. Khurshid, who spoke to the Chief Minister’s office, said the State had serious concerns about the spread of COVID-19 infection. Serial testing was being done. It may repeat the lockdown. “This is a matter of more serious concern,” Mr. Khurshid submitted.

He asked the court how the State could be expected to “select” devotees to be allowed into the temple. The senior lawyer said even if the State could indeed “innovate” a mechanism for selecting people to be allowed in, this could not be done overnight.

Additional Advocate General for Jharkhand, Tapesh Kumar Singh, said the lanes leading to the temple were congested and it would be difficult to maintain social distancing.

When asked for his opinion, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, referred to temples in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh that had an online system for darshan based on Aadhaar card. Specific time slots were given to the devotees. They had to wear masks and maintain physical distancing while queueing up for darshan.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 8:04:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/e-darshan-is-no-darshan-says-supreme-court/article32243120.ece

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