High Court Tells Maharashtra Govt to Consider Parsi Petition for Farvardegan Prayers at Doongarwadi


September 1, 2020

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Observing that both sides must be reasonable, the Bombay high court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government to consider a representation by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet to allow community members to hold the annual Farvardegan prayers for the dead on September 3 at Doongerwadi at Malabar Hill in Mumbai.

Article by Rosy Sequeira | Times Of India


A bench of justice Ramesh Dhanuka and justice Madhav Jamdar directed Amitabh Gupta, principal secretary (Home Department) and Kishor Nimbalkar, secretary, Disaster Management Department, to hear petitioner Viraf Mehta, a Bombay Parsi Panchayat trustee, and submit their decision with reasons to the court on September 2.

Mehta’s petition sought exemption for a day pointing out that the Jain community at three temples in Mumbai for Paryushan on two special days.

His advocate Prakash Shah said at the 55 acre Doongerwadi, which houses the Tower of Silence, there will be fice open pavillions each around 800-1000 square feet and only 20 persons will be allowed at a time for a 30-minute prayer.

“It will start from 7 am to 4.30 pm. We expect 500-600… not too much people. It is a once in a year prayer for those who have lost these near and dear ones,” explained Shah. He also said BPP will take utmost care and follow social distancing norms, check temperatures etc.”There will be no crowding,” he added

To the judge’s query whether representation was made to the state government, Shah replied it was not done because the state had refused permission for Jains and Muharram.

Advocate-general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni opposed the petition asking whether Mehta had filed it in his individual capacity for the community or on behalf of the BPP for the whole community or for the whole state.

“Let him produce a resolution of his representative capacity,” he added. He also said if the prayers are to be held at one place in Mumbai then the state “can have a favourable approach” “There is no question of allowing festivities,” said the AG.

Shah said the petition is filed on behalf of BPP which is the owner of Doongerwadi land and undertook to produce its resolution in this regard. “There is a bawdi (well) where the last ceremony of the deceased takes place. Only prayers will be held. It is not a festivity etc. Its for only those who want to come and pray. Everybody will come for their own family members,” said Shah. He clarified it is only for one place in Mumbai and not across the State.

When the AG said Mehta must “make a commitment ” that in other parts of Maharashtra it will not seek similar relief, Shah countered that Mehta represents the Parsi community in Mumbai.”If Supreme Court can allow only for three Jain temples, same principle can apply. I’m not saying allow for whole Mumbai, ” he added.

Additional solicitor general Anil Singh said the Centre’s standard operating procedure issued during Unlock 2 on June and Unlock 3 in July permits opening of religious places for the purpose of worship.

“However there will be certain restrictions like persons above 60 and below six years will not be allowed. It has prohibited religious functions and gatherings. If the petitioner is making representation and the state is considering it, they should keep in mind the SOP issued by the Centre,”said Singh

When the AG said if the BPP is reasonable, something can be worked out, justice Dhanuka remarked,” Both (sides) have to be reasonable.”

The judges then directed the state to treat the petition as a representation.

“In such petition, the petitioner shall indicate the number of persons who are likely to attend the prayers proposed to be performed on September 3 and for other ceremonies pointed out in the writ petition, timing for conducting such prayers etc.,”they added.