NEWS: Right to religion not higher than right to life, Says Madras HC

By Legal Wires 4 Minutes Read

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee of Madras High Court while directing the state authorities to examine if it is feasible to conduct the traditional festivals and rituals at the Srirangam temple without compromising Coivd-19 protocol, the Chief Justice remarked that Right to religion not higher than right to life.

The PIL was moved by Rangarajan Narasimha who was aggrieved over the halt in the conduct of festivals and rituals at the Srirangam’s Ranganathaswamy Temple.

Chief Justice Banerjee orally remarked,

“Your religious rites have to be subject to public interest and the right to life. The right to religion is not higher than right to life … If government has to take measures in pandemic situation … we will not seek to interfere…. With the little that we have heard you, with the present scientific assistance … how can we come to your aid? … Now that we have the help of science, let us use science to promote your religious festivals…”

The Chief Justice recalled the Calcutta High Court orders to regulate the conduct of Durga Puja festival activities.

The Court observed: “It goes against how you celebrate these functions. Fortunately both (decisions) were upheld by the Supreme Court on ground that right to life comes ahead of right to religion. If you can assure and if it is feasible that the functions can be conducted on reduced level of participation of the public, so that religious rights are not compromised and public health also not affected, we can go ahead…”

Rangarajan contended that the government orders are creating confusion and anarchy while permitting some festivals and prohibiting others. He emphasized the ways of conducting the festivals on a minimal scale without compromising the Covid-19 protocol.

The Court added “It is made absolutely clear that hygiene and COVID protocol cannot be compromised for the purpose of any religious celebrations. The celebrations have to be held upon maintaining covid protocol at all times,”

Therefore the Bench proceeded to direct the government to consult the concerned religious heads to examine whether it would be possible to conduct the festival without compromising public health. The Court has also called for a report from the government in 6 weeks’ time, indicating how the festivities may be observed for the period until July 2021.

Legal Wires

Team @LegalWires

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