The Supreme Court on Friday allowed three Jain temples in Mumbai’s Dadar, Byculla and Chembur areas to hold prayers for two days during the auspicious Paryushan period, Bar and Bench reported. The top court emphasised that the temple authorities will have to strictly follow all coronavirus safety precautions.

The court, however, noted that its interim order will not apply to other religious places amid the health crisis. “Our order is not intended to apply in any other case particularly for any large congregation, we are referring particularly to the kind of congregations that take place during Ganapati festival in Mumbai and other places,” the bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said. They also said that the decision about the Ganesh festival will have to be taken on a “case-to-case basis” by the state’s disaster management authority.

The Supreme Court’s order came on a petition filed by the Shri Parshwatilak Shwetamber Murtipujak Tapagacch Jain Trust, asking that people from the Jain community be allowed to pray at the temples during the Paryushan period. The court said that the petitioner must ensure that it would not be “hazardous” to permit the prayers at the three temples.

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The Maharashtra government had opposed the trust’s petition, saying that the religious event would create challenges for the health authorities. Congress leader and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the Maharashtra government, told the top court that the government had cancelled other religious events due to coronavirus fears.

“This is a dynamic situation and is fact-intensive,” the top court said in response to Singhvi, according to Bar and Bench. “If you can enforce the SOP [standard operating procedure] and obtain an undertaking (of following all safety measures) then why shouldn’t the activities be held?”

“This is exactly the choice we had with the Odisha Rath Yatra,” the top court added. “We believe that if we can ensure that distancing is maintained and people do not gather then merely putting the Rath is not damaging.”

The court noted that the state government was willing to take risks by opening up economic sectors but was reluctant to allow religious gatherings. “We find it very strange that every activity they are allowing involves economic activity,” the court said. “They are willing to take the risk if money is involved but if it religious then they say there is Covid and we can’t do this.”

“If it is the matter of five people at a time in one temple and this format can be replicated in all the places, then we are not opposed to expanding this scope of this to beyond Jain temples – why not Hindu temples, why not Muslim shrines?” the top court added.

Maharashtra remains the worst coronavirus-hit state in India with 6,43,289 cases and over 21,000 deaths. Mumbai alone has reported over 1.32 lakh coronavirus cases and 7,311 deaths so far.