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Allahabad HC refuses permission to hold rituals for Muharram

The Allahabad High Court. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Allahabad High Court on Saturday refused to grant permission to hold mourning rituals for Muharram in Uttar Pradesh saying complete prohibition of religious practices though an extraordinary measure was very much in proportion with the unprecedented situation owing to COVID-19.

The court dismissed a bunch of PILs filed challenging the government orders dated August 10 and August 25 prohibiting events like processions and sought permission to perform rituals.

“...it is with a heavy heart that we hold that in these testing times, it is not possible to lift the prohibition by providing any guidelines for regulating the mourning rituals/practice connected with the 10th day of Muharram,” the court said.

“We must hope and trust that God would perceive our restraint in our customary practices, not as a slight, but as an act of compassion for our brothers and sisters and give us the opportunity to celebrate all festivals with greater faith and fervour in future,” a division bench of Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Shamim Ahmed noted.

The petitioners had argued that the two prohibitory orders were “discriminatory in nature” as they provided for a complete ban in taking out the processions and target only one community. The counsels for the petitioners also submitted that the Supreme Court had allowed the devotees access to the places of worship and permitted the annual chariot procession at the Jagganath Temple in Puri besides recently permitting the offer of Paryushan prayers in three Jain temples in Mumbai.

The petitioners had also argued that the proposed rituals could be regulated by prescribing reasonable restrictions like limiting the number of people to carry out the taziyas till karbala for burial.

Additional Chief Standing Counsel appearing on behalf of the State opposed the contention made by the petitioners and said the orders were in no way discriminatory. Restrictions have also been imposed upon the Hindu community and they have been prohibited from raising any pooja pandals or installing statues or idols or even taking out processions during Ganesh Chaturthi, the government said.

The court noted it was clear that in view of controlling the spread of the pandemic, the State government has imposed a complete prohibition on all religious activities that may involve a large conglomeration of people, across communities, and as such the government orders “are not discriminatory nor do they target” any community in particular.

A bare perusal of the notifications issued by the State government clearly indicates that the same yardstick has been adopted for all religious communities and they have been restricted from carrying on any processions or jhankis or activities that have a danger of large congregations that may lead to a spread of the pandemic, the court observed.

The court also said the SC had not issued any general directions in the Jagannath temple Rath Yatra, saying the present case pertained to the entire State and was not confined to one or a few districts.

“...it would be discriminatory to grant permission to certain districts while prohibiting the others. Further the intensity of the spread of the contagion in the State is rising at an alarming rate,” the court said.

The judges noted that “no doubt that the burial of the taziyas at the burial ground is a solemn and important part” of custom of Muharram but it was necessary to note that every locality or colony has taziyas, besides various individual families, all of whom have to get to the burial ground, since the burial of taziyas cannot be deputed but has to be done personally.

“There is no mechanism fathomable, by the means of which it can be ensured that all such persons be permitted to take the taziyas to the burial ground in a single day, while avoiding the risk of transmission of the contagion or following basic rules of social distancing, which are an absolute necessity in these unprecedented times.”

No restriction can be placed only on certain groups or individuals while permitting the others, since that would clearly amount to forming a class within a class, which would be arbitrary and discriminatory, the court said.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 2:31:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/allahabad-hc-refuses-permission-to-hold-rituals-for-muharram/article32474579.ece

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