Defying an official circular of the High Court that stipulates that no religious idols can be placed inside the court premises, two associations have set up Ganesh pandals.

The two pandals were set up within the premises of the High Court — one in the office of the Karnataka State Advocates Clerks’ Association and the other inside the Advocates’ Conference Hall near Court Hall no. 1.

The pandal inside the Advocates’ Conference Hall is equipped with loudspeakers.

The installation of the two idols inside the court premises are against an order issued by the Registrar-General of the High Court R.B. Budihal on July 1, 2009. The order states: “No idol of any deity and no statue of any personality shall be installed nor any temple, mosque, prayer hall or monument representing any particular religion shall be established within the Principal Bench of the High Court of Karnataka, High Court Circuit Benches at Dharwad and Gulbarga or in any premises of the subordinate courts in the State, including the premises of the Advocates Associations/Bar Associations in order to upkeep the independence and secular status of the judiciary.”

Mr. Budihal’s office conveyed to The Hindu that he doesn’t speak to journalists as a matter of principle. However, his office confirmed that the order was indeed issued by him and continues to be in force.

Advocates Association Bangalore (AAB) president K.N. Subba Reddy defended the setting up of the pandals, saying “Ganesh is a universal god. People of all faiths pray to him. Ganesh puja is being organised with the help of the AAB. It has been going on for more than 20 years. What is wrong?.”

Lawyers, who do not subscribe to the practice of promoting religious activities within court premises, point out that offices in most courts in the State have religious photographs and little shrines within them. One lawyer, who did not wish to be named, referred to the second part of Mr. Budihal’s order, which states: “Except the portrait of the Father of the Nation – Mahatma Gandhi, no other photograph/portrait shall be exhibited…”

Advocate-General Ravivarma Kumar has taken exception to the two Ganesh pandals inside the court. In a dictated statement, he said: “I am against utilising any public property for religious ends. It [the act of keeping Ganesha statues] is not sponsored by the High Court of Karnataka. It is a mystery how the High Court premises has been lent for a private religious purpose. ”