Bombay High Court Read Order
Bombay High Court Read Order
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Bombay HC permits prayers during the Parsi Day of Prayer, stresses on compliance with distancing and sanitation norms [Read Order]

Accepting the Bombay Parsi Panchayat’s detailed scheme for ensuring physical distancing during the annual prayer day, the Court has allowed the reopening of Doongerwadi for the Parsi annual day of prayer.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The Bombay High Court has allowed the members of the Parsi Community to offer prayers at the Doongerwadi during their Annual Day of Prayer for the departed (Viraf D. Mehta v. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and Ors).

The petitioner, Viraf D. Mehta for the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, initially prayed for the reopening of Fire Temples at Doongerwadi and other places of worship for prayers and sought the reopening of the temples for the prayer day only as alternative relief.

However, as hearings progressed, the petitioner entreated the Court to reopen the Temples at Doongerwadi only for the annual prayer day.

The prayer day falls on September 3, during which adherents of the Zoroastrianism faith pray for their deceased relations.

The Bench of Justices RD Dhanuka and Madhav J Jamdar allowed the alternative prayer, after taking on record the following undertakings by the petitioner:

  • A detailed scheme was in place to ensure physical distancing and sanitisation measures to guard against COVID-19 spread.

  • The Panchayat had undertaken to set up of 5 pavilions of 600-800 square feet at Doongerwadi.

  • Only a maximum of 6 persons would be allowed in each of the pavilions at a time, along with two priests.

  • Further, only members of the Parsi Community were allowed inside the Doongerwadi, which was described as an isolated gated area spread across 55 acres.

  • Members who desired to offer prayers would have to book a 30-minute time slot between 7:00 AM and 4:30 PM to offer prayers.

  • Proper sanitization of each of the pavilions would be done and the next batch of persons would only be admitted after a gap of 15-20 minutes following sanitization.

  • Members would be allowed to enter the premises only once their hands were sanitized and temperatures recorded.

  • The Panchayat assured the Court that the bodily remains of people who died of COVID-19 would not be allowed into the Doongerwadi and would be cremated at a Worli prayer hall.

  • There would be no religious function and there would be no large congregations like Ganeshostav or Navratri.

“The Petitioner undertook not only to adhere to the social distancing norms but strictly follow the guidelines of Central and State Government. No person will be allowed without face mask. The members will also offer hand gloves to those who desire to use them", the Court further noted

The Bench stressed upon the fact that the Court would not be relying on previous rulings of either the Supreme Court or the Bombay High Court in the present order, and further that this order would also not be treated as a precedent.

In addition to all the precautions taken, the petitioner undertook to personally ensure that the entire premises were sanitised at his own cost.

The Court accepted the undertakings made by the Panchayat and additionally required that the Standard Operating Procedure for the reopening of places of worship and the latest Unlock Guidelines be followed in their entirety.

It is made clear that worshipers will have to follow all the social distancing norms prescribed in SOP dated 4th June, 2020 as well as guidelines dated 31st August, 2020 framed by the Central Government and State Government", the Court said.

The Court added that children below the age of ten and senior citizens over 65 years of age would be barred from entering the area.

With this, the Writ Petition was disposed of.

Advocates Prakash Shah and Durgaprasad Poojari represented the Petitioner Viraj B Mehta, the Trustee of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat.

Advocates Sheetal Metakari and Aruna Savla appeared for Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Advocate General AAKumbhakoni and Government Pleaders PH Kantharia, Geeta Shastri, ASG Anil Singh, Aditya Thakkar, DP Singh represented the State and the Centre.

Read the Order here:

Viraf D. Mehta v. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and Ors. - Order dated September 2.pdf
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