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PIL in Calcutta HC Against Reopening Of Religious Places

By Harshil Jain      13 June, 2020 03:42 PM      0 Comments
Calcutta HC Reopening Of Religious Places

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in Calcutta High Court challenging the decision of the Centre and the state governments on reopening the religious places of worship in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petition has been filed by Adv. Priyanka Tibrewal. It seeks reconsideration on three matters; reopening of religious places, exemption of children less than 12 years of age from physically attending schools and proper quarantine facilities in the state. (Priyanka Tibrewal v.UOI and Ors.)

The petitioner submitted, "The opening up of non-essential activities not impacting the economy is inviting trouble. It is difficult to ascertain how many asymptomatic COVID positive cases may be roaming around the city due to opening up of such non essential activities such as places of worship."

"The exposure of normal people to such COVID positive asymptomatic person will lead to nothing short of an explosion of the number of COVID positive cases", the petitioner added.

The petition asserted that closing of religious places was justifiable on the grounds of public order and health under Article 25 [Right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion; subject to public order, morality and health].

However, reopening of religious places from June 8, 2020, as allowed by a notification of Ministry of Home Affairs, is arbitrary, unnecessary and against public policy and health. The petition stated that such 'non-essential activities' should be discouraged, as they would stymie social distancing mechanisms in public places.

"The restrictions are in collective interest of the society at large. Merely that in certain areas restrictions have been relaxed cannot be a ground to relax the same qua religious places of worship", the petitioner said.

It is noted that children and old persons are more susceptible to get infected with the COVID virus. In this case, if schools and other public places (especially, places of worship) are opened up, then the probability of these vulnerable sections contacting the disease will rise exponentially, resulting in a steep rise in the number of COVID- 19 cases.

The petition also asked for directions regarding exemption of children, who are less than 12 years of age, from attending schools till a proper and certified medicine or vaccine is developed. It also urged that all schools in the state should remain closed till it is certified by health authorities as safe to open physical functioning.

Based on a CN News report from June 1, 2020, the petition refers to an incident where five migrant workers were quarantined in a Sulabh toilet. The petitioner has prayed to the Court to issue guidelines to the government for providing safe, hygienic and proper sanitation facilities, in cases where institutional quarantine is necessary, to migrants and labourers who are entering into the state. 

The matter was heard by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee. The bench has postponed the matter. It will be taken up on June 19, 2020, and asked the Central and State government to be represented by their lawyers. 



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