Kali Puja : Calcutta High Court Permits Restricted Entry Into Pandals For Fully Vaccinated People; Rituals Such As Anjali, Arati Allowed
Modifying the directions issued last year vide order dated November 5, 2020, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday observed that all puja pandals will continue to be No-Entry Zones, including an area of five-metre beyond the pandals on all the open sides. It was further directed that based on the size of the pandals, only limited people can be allowed entry within the permissible entry points...
Modifying the directions issued last year vide order dated November 5, 2020, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday observed that all puja pandals will continue to be No-Entry Zones, including an area of five-metre beyond the pandals on all the open sides. It was further directed that based on the size of the pandals, only limited people can be allowed entry within the permissible entry points as long as they are double vaccinated and are wearing a mask.
A Bench comprising Justices Rajasekhar Mantha and Kesang Doma Bhutia lamented about how enormous crowds had been seen outside puja pandals during Durga Puja last month and accordingly directed the State authorities to ensure that there is no overcrowding during the upcoming festivals.
"During the Durga Puja for the year 2021, with the reduction in the Covid positive cases and the easing of the restrictions, people who have been confined and restricted at home for the prolonged lockdown, have ventured out socially, with vengeance. As a consequence of this, certain areas and popular pandals have seen enormous crowds albeit outside the entry points of the particular puja. In fact, one of such Puja had to be shut down and the concerned decorative pandal pulled down", the Court observed.
The Bench was adjudicating upon a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition moved by one Ajay Kumar De seeking directions to ensure crowd management during the upcoming festivals- Kali Puja, Jagadhatri Puja, Kartick Puja and Chhat Puja.
"The onus, in fact, lies on the citizens to ensure that there is no crowding at any place and the people should restrict themselves and apply curbs on their own to avoid and prevent overcrowding. The State would obviously continue to take all steps to strictly implement the aforesaid orders", the Court underscored further.
Although the Court noted that the Covid-19 positivity rate in the State is within 5%, it opined that the likelihood of relapse of the pandemic and or a third wave, cannot be ruled out and looms at large. The Court further stated that it would pass a separate order on restrictions to be imposed during the upcoming Chhat Puja after the Court reopens on November 8.
• All pandals will continue to be No-Entry Zones, including an area of five-metre beyond the pandals on all the open sides. Only dhakis will be permitted to occupy the space beyond the pandals and within the five-metre zone thereafter. Except for dhakis, the five-metre zone has to be kept completely free at all times.
• For the smaller pandals, where the covered area excluding the dais is upto 150 square metre, only 10 persons may be in such covered area at any given point of time. For pandals with a covered area between 150 square metre and 300 square metre excluding the dais, the number of persons at any point of time may be 15. For bigger pandals, in excess of 300 square metre in area excluding the dais, a maximum of 45 persons can be within the pandals at any given point of time.
• Sanitisers must be available at the puja pandals and wearing of masks will be mandatory within and around the pandal area. The distancing norm has to be maintained at all times both within the pandals and in an around the pandals.
• Immersions should be low-key affairs and processions for such purpose will not be permitted. The use of bands and lights at the time of immersion will also remain prohibited. It will be open to the local police to provide for staggered timings so that the immersion ghats are not overcrowded.
• Such entry shall be unrestricted provided each visitor is double vaccinated and wears a mask. Subject to the maximum number of persons which is allowed inside a Puja-pandal and compliance. with the other conditions like double vaccination and wearing of masks, all activities and puja rituals like Anjali, Arati, Sindur Khelaetc. are permitted inside the pandal. This entry requirement compliance shall be checked by the Puja organisers at the entrance. Spot verification is to be made by the police. If any, Puja organisation is found to be in default, the Puja and all other activities in that pandal may be forthwith cancelled by the police.
• The expression "such entry shall be provided provided each visitor is doubly vaccinated and wears mask", should not be treated as a blanket license to one and all to throng and overcrowd the puja pandal areas in particular and street in general.
Case Title: Ajay Kumar De v. The State of West Bengal and others