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Plea for permission to conduct limited Muharram procession: Supreme Court asks petitioner to add States as parties

The petitioner told the Court that the permission is being sought for processions in a limited manner with only five participants and while ensuring all safety norms are followed.

Shruti Mahajan

A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court seeking permission to carry out Muharram processions in a limited manner amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court has asked the petitioner to implead all States as parties in the matter (Sipte Mohammad v. Union of India and anr).

The Bench of CJI SA Bobde with Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian was hearing a plea which sought for a direction from the top Court to allow the conduct of the mourning procession by the Shia Muslim community.

This permission was sought owing to the restrictions in place on large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Court noticed that the State governments have not been arrayed as parties in the petition. Therefore, it directed that the petitioner to ensure that State governments are added as parties. This was considering that the State governments are empowered to enforce the Union Home Ministry's guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act amid the pandemic.

As such, the States would have to be heard before passing any orders, the Court observed.

"States are not party, we can't pass order without hearing the States as procession will take place in States. "
CJI SA Bobde

During the hearing, the Court was informed by the counsel for the petitioner, Wasi Haider, that the permission is being sought for processions in a limited manner with only five participants and while ensuring that all other safety norms are followed.

The Court today confined to allowing the petitioner to implead State governments as parties in the matter.

Last week, the Supreme Court had allowed the opening of 3 Jain temples in Mumbai for prayers to be offered by devotees for Paryushan.

This permission was subject to the undertaking by the Temple trusts that at any given point, not more than five persons will be allowed inside the temple and that all the requisite social distancing and other safety norms would be followed.

While passing that order, the Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde had clarified that this order should not be treated as a precedent.

However, during the hearing in the said matter, the Bench had also orally mentioned that if the model for offering prayers with limited participation by the devotees as proposed by the Temple trust could be replicated, then the Court would be open to expanding the scope of the issue to other religious shrines also.

"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 Bench had orally remarked.

However, this question was not further considered by the Court at the time.

Read Order:

Sipte Mohammad vs UOI.pdf
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