8 Sep 2023 4:50 PM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority (“ADDA”) to grant permission to the petitioners to hold celebrations of Ganesh Puja between September 18-22 on a public ground, which was admittedly used for government functions and Durga Puja.In holding that denial to host Ganesh Puja, while allowing celebrations of Durga Puja on the same grounds...
The Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority (“ADDA”) to grant permission to the petitioners to hold celebrations of Ganesh Puja between September 18-22 on a public ground, which was admittedly used for government functions and Durga Puja.
In holding that denial to host Ganesh Puja, while allowing celebrations of Durga Puja on the same grounds would violate the petitioner’s fundamental rights under Article 14, a single-bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya held,
If Durga Puja is allowed on the ground, which is also a festivity of Hindus, there is no reason why festivities of other religions or the same religion, be it of other idols, should not be allowed thereon. The differentia sought to be projected by the ADDA is not sufficiently intelligible to come within the purview of reasonable classification within the exceptions to Article 14 of the Constitution. More absurd is the equation of government programmes with Durga Pula festivities. If Durga Puja can be said to be on equal footing with other government programmes, there is no plausible reason why Ganesh Puja or some other performance of public religious or celebratory activity should not come within the purview of the same.
Petitioners, the Siddhi Vinayake Puja Committee argued that the ground, which was public in nature, had been used earlier for Durga puja, and that in 2022, the ADDA had decided to exclusively use the ground for Durga puja celebrations only.
It was submitted that there was no reasonable distinction between Ganesh Puja and Durga Puja or other government programs insofar as public properties were concerned.
Counsel for ADDA argued along the lines of Article 25 of the Constitution and submitted that right to practise religion did not include the right to possess any property or claim any right over a particular place to worship. It was argued that according to earlier Apex Court decisions, unless the ground in question was an integral part of worship for a particular religious sect, the petitioners could not exert any claim over hosting their festivities on it.
Counsel relied on the Court's earlier decision holding that Durga puja is a semi-secular festival and argued that Ganesh puja at least in West Bengal, was not so significant, inclusive or widespread.
Upon perusing the refusal of permission by ADDA, the Court noted that the sole reason was that the ground had been classified by the Board as exclusively for government programs and Durga Puja.
Court held that the present case was not concerning the rights of the petitioners under Article 25 of the Constitution, but instead a question of their Right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.
It said, The right claimed by the petitioners is one under Article 14 of the Constitution read with Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The right to life, which is vested in every citizen of India, includes the right to live with dignity and in proper manner, which includes, broadly, the rights of a person to practise his festivities and ceremonies as well, irrespective of the component of religion therein.
Accordingly, the Bench held that the refusal of the ADDA for the petitioners to use a public ground that was being used for celebration of Durga Puja, which was also a festivity, was bad in law and without any intelligible differentia or reasonable classification, thereby violating the rights of the petitioners
The Court in concluding, directed the ADDA to allow the petitioners to hold celebrations of Ganesh Puja on the particular public ground between 18-22 September, while directing the petitioners to maintain law and order, and hand over vacant possession of the ground back to the respondent authorities.