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"Might Lead To Law & Order Situation": Orissa HC Declines To Intervene Against Police Action In 'Distorted Ganesh Idol' Case

Jyoti Prakash Dutta
31 Aug 2022 5:45 AM GMT
Might Lead To Law & Order Situation: Orissa HC Declines To Intervene Against Police Action In Distorted Ganesh Idol Case
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The Orissa High Court has declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a sculptor against alleged police actions in preventing him from making and selling certain types of idols of Lord Ganesha. A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Chittaranjan Dash, while backing police actions, apprehended a law-and-order situation if such idols...

The Orissa High Court has declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a sculptor against alleged police actions in preventing him from making and selling certain types of idols of Lord Ganesha.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Chittaranjan Dash, while backing police actions, apprehended a law-and-order situation if such idols are permitted to be made and sold. It observed,

"In matters of this nature where there is a genuine apprehension of untoward incidents being created which might lead to a law-and-order situation, the Court would not like to sit in judgment over the assessment of the Police."

Factual Background:

The writ petition was filed by a resident of Cuttack, who was aggrieved by the actions of the Inspector-In-Charge (IIC), Purighat Police Station, Cuttack in preventing him from proceeding with the making and sale of certain idols of Lord Ganesh for the Ganesh Chaturthi Festival on 31st August, 2022.

On 25th August, 2022 around noon time, the police received information from the public and the media people about the idols being made by the petitioner of Lord Ganesh on his own imagination by 'disfiguring' the image of Lord Ganesh which allegedly hurts the religious sentiments of devotees. The photographs and video footages of the said idols made by the petitioner apparently went viral and the police apprehended that it may lead to untoward incidents.

The police asked the sculptors, including the petitioner, to come to the Purighat Police Station for a discussion. The petitioner and two others were conveyed by the police that there is discontentment among the public regarding such disfiguration of the idol of Lord Ganesh which may create law and order situation in the area and advised them not to make such disfigured idols of Lord Ganesh for the sake of respect to Hindu Gods.

Arguments of Parties & Court's Observations:

When the matter came up before the Bench for hearing, Mr. Ashis Kumar Mishra, counsel for the petitioner tried to brief the Court about the facts. However, Mr. Debakanta Mohanty, Additional Government Advocate intervened and requested the Court to have a glance on a report/instruction which was submitted by the police.

Mr. Mishra conveyed the Court that the copy of that report was not served upon him. The Court directed the AGA to provide the same to Mr. Mishra.

Mr. Mishra then tried to draw the attention of the Court to an annexure of his petition, but CJ Muralidhar told him, "We cannot go into the disputed questions. They (the police) have a very different version. Without reading their version, without knowing what they are saying, there is no point in your arguing."

Upon which, Mr. Mishra replied "they (the police) are misleading the Court."

It enraged CJ Muralidhar, who promptly responded, "You already know that? You have not even read what we read now and you are already sure that they are misleading. We have also been in the Bar. When the opposite side shows a document to the Court which contains details of the facts of the very case that you are arguing, as lawyers we will not simply say without even looking into the document that whatever they are saying is false. I have never heard arguments like this. I am sorry to say."

Then a soft copy of the report was sent by the AGA to Mr. Mishra and 15 minutes were granted to him to go through that and join back the Court.

When the hearing in the matter resumed after some time, Mr. Mishra conveyed the Court that he has gone through the report. He read out the portion of the report which alleged that an idol of Lord Ganesh is made with "six-packed Lord Shiva's face with metalled hair having one imagery vahan". He submitted that the said idols are known as 'Rudra Ganesh', otherwise known as 'Shiva Swarupa Ganesh'.

Then CJ Muralidhar remarked, "In the community there is a growing resentment over these idols being made."

In the meanwhile, the AGA intervened and said, "We are not restricting them to sell good idols with proper image of Lord Ganesh. But these are not the ways to promote the business."

To which Mr. Mishra replied, "They don't have any knowledge about 'Rudra Ganesh'. Even we have convinced them, but they are not ready to listen."

The AGA further added, "There is an image where Lord Ganesh is dancing like (as was shown in) 'Pushpa' cinema."

Mr. Mishra then clarified, "That Pushpa Ganesh has come from West Bengal. They (the petitioner and other artists) are the hereditary artisans of Cuttack town. Idols are also coming from outside of Odisha."

Counsel for the petitioner also said that he is arguing only in favour of the two idols against which police action was taken. He vehemently submitted that his clients have invested money and time in making those idols and hence, they may be allowed to sell those idols.

But the Chief Justice promptly suggested, "You make other idols, other than these two idols and sell them. Tell your clients also to make proper Ganesh idols."

Mr. Mishra replied, "These are proper idols, My Lord. These are 'Rudra Ganesh'." He also said that it is up to the devotees as to how they view the idols of Lord Ganesh and police has got no role to intervene in these matters.

However, these submissions could not convince the Bench to grant any relief to the petitioner and accordingly, the Court observed,

"…the situation that the Police faced is one of law and order as a result of such idols being displayed in public. Clearly, there is an alternative to the Petitioner making other idols of Lord Ganesh which do not create any resentment in the local public and do not create an occasion for any law-and-order situation which may go out of hand."

Consequently, the petition was dismissed.

Case Title: Narayan Muduli v. State of Odisha & Ors.

Citation :2022 LiveLaw (Ori) 129

Case No.: W.P.(C) PIL No. 21974 of 2022

Order Dated: 29th August 2022

Coram: Dr. S. Muralidhar, CJ. & Chittaranjan Dash, J.

Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr. Ashis Kumar Mishra, Advocate

Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. Debakanta Mohanty, Additional Government Advocate

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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