The Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to grant permission to the Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust to hold namaz five times a day during Ramzan at its mosque.
A Division Bench of Justices R.D. Dhanuka and V.G. Bisht was hearing a petition filed by the trust, registered under the Bombay Public Trust and Wakf Act. The plea sought a direction to allow Muslims to offer prayers five times a day at the mosque from April 14 till the end of Ramzan, adhering to social distancing and standard operating procedures in force.
Advocate Mohiuddin Vaid, appearing for the trust, said the mosque was spread over one acre and at a time, 7,000 people could offer namaz, which showed that it was quite spacious, and all the standard operating procedures meant to break the chain of COVID-19 could be easily followed and adhered to under the supervision of the police as might be required.
The court said, “In our view, the restrictions imposed by the State government are due to the COVID-19 circumstances. Considering the prevailing situation and ground reality in Maharashtra, we cannot permit the petitioner to perform prayers at the mosque.”
The court also said the situation was very serious and the safety of citizens was more important. The Bench noted, “The right to celebrate or follow a religious practice is important, but what is more paramount is public order and the safety of citizens.” The court added that the government’s order of restrictions was in public interest and for the safety of all residents of Maharashtra. In the past, several courts across the country had refused permission to many religious congregations due to the pandemic.
State counsel Jyoti Chavan opposed the plea and said, “We cannot make an exception to any religion, especially in this 15-day period. We cannot take a risk at this stage and all citizens should cooperate.”