Calcutta High Court
Calcutta High Court
Litigation News

PIL to withdraw relaxations for opening up places of worship in WB amid COVID-19: Calcutta HC seeks Govt response

The petitioner also urges that directions be issued to protect children up to the age of 12 years and to provide proper facilities for institutional quarantine to migrant labourers entering the State amid the pandemic.

Aishwarya Iyer

The Calcutta High Court has issued notice to the Central and the State government in a petition filed raising concern over the decision to open up places of worship in West Bengal amid the COVID-19 pandemic (Priyanka Tibrewal v. Union of India and Ors).

A Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee has posted the matter to be taken up on June 19.

While recalling that the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in West Bengal stood at 6,168 as of June 3, the petition filed by Advocate Priyanka Tibrewal submits,

"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."
PIL petitioner.
" ... (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 adds.

While this is the case, the petitioner has registered objection to the manner in which the State authorities have been easing the restrictions in West Bengal, particularly when it comes to the opening of religious places.

In this regard, the petitioner cites news reports showing the callous, irresponsible and highly misconceived statements made by the Chief Minister stating that “if large number of passengers could be packed in train coaches and allowed to travel, then there was no harm in throwing open the doors of religious places for devotees.”

“Essential travel of passengers can in no manner be equated with opening up and crowding of places of worship, which are non-essential activities", the petitioner points out.

The object of practicing social distancing and controlling the spread of COVID-19 will not be achieved if such non-essential activities are open.

On this issue, it is also highlighted that public health is a reasonable ground to restrict religious rights as per the Constitutional scheme. Therefore, imposition of such restrictions are not repugnant to Article 25 of the Constitution of India, it is argued.

"It is reiterated that the restrictions, if imposed shall neither arbitrary nor excessive. The imposition of restrictions constitutes a ‘paternalistic act’. 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 states.

The petitioner also urges that directions be issued to protect children up to the age of 12 years and to provide proper facilities for institutional quarantine to migrant labourers entering the State amid the pandemic.

It is noted that children and old people are more susceptible to COVID-19. Therefore, the Court has been urged to direct the State authorities to frame pre-emptive guidelines for the safety of these groups. It is also urged that all schools in the state should remain closed till it is certified by health authorities as safe to open physical functioning.

As far as the quarantine measures in place for incoming migrants are concerned, the petitioner highlights the condition of the migrant workers of the State is abysmal to say the least.

Relying on a CN News Report from June 1, the petition refers to an incidnt where five migrant workers were quarantined in a Sulabh Toilet in a deplorable state of hygiene.

When this was brought to the notice of the police station, it was reported that the informant was ill-treated and the officer in charge refused to entertain his request.

In this backdrop, the petitioner has also prayed that the Court issue directions so that safe and sanitary living conditions are ensured for migrant workers who are mandatorily sent to institutional quarantine.

Read the Petition here:

Final Writ Petition Temple, Migrant, School.pdf
Preview

Read the Order here:

Priyanka Tibrewal v Union of India and Others.pdf
Preview
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news
www.barandbench.com