KOCHI: “Consumption of liquor is allowed but the right to pray is denied,” argued the counsel for a priest who approached the Kerala High Court seeking a directive to permit opening of churches. The state government replied that beverage outlets and bars have remained closed in Kerala even after the lockdown restrictions were relaxed.
When the petition came up for hearing on Friday, advocate V Philip Mathews submitted that serpentine queues are visible in front of liquor shops in Tamil Nadu and other states without maintaining social distancing. Even a mall in Kochi city is functioning. The petitioners also submitted that they had approached the government seeking modification in the guidelines and seeking permission to open churches. Even now, lockdown guidelines allow 20 people to congregate for marriages and funerals, whereas only five people are allowed in churches at a time, which remain closed to the public.
The petition, filed by Fr Shobin Paul, director of Jesus Power Mission Retreat Centre, Puthencruze and two faithful seeking permission to open all churches in Kerala for public worship maintaining social distancing, health and hygiene, stated that there was no justification in closing religious places even in green zones when various other activities where people are likely to gather are permitted. The court posted the case on May 18.