A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Thursday observed that sanction could be given for taking out religious processions and processions in connection with national festivals subject to certain restrictions, since such processions were “moving crowd which did not occupy the roads for a long duration of time.”

The Bench comprising Justice C.N. Ramachandran Nair and Justice P.S. Gopinathan made the observation while declaring unconstitutional section 5(1)(c) of the Kerala Public Ways (Restriction of Assemblies and Processions) Act.

The court said that since religious and national festivals were held once a year and short-distance processions were taken out in connection with such celebrations or festivities, they could be allowed along the roads.

Referring to the Advocate General's submissions regarding the need for granting permission for holding Thrissur Pooram and Attukal Pongala, the court observed that the Pooram celebrations were held on the Thekkinkadu Maidan and processions were taken out along wide roads. Since there was a large number of parallel roads connecting the Highways and the main roads outside the ring road of the town, Thrissur Pooram did not affect road connectivity.

As far as the Attukal Pongala was concerned, the court noted that a large number of women devotees were participating in the ritual. The court had earlier issued specific directions to the police and revenue authorities to ensure that the festivals did not lead to road-blocks. The women lined up on all roadsides. If vote-bank politics did not compel the politicians to interfere, the city police would ensure that devotees occupied only one side of the public road and the festival was conducted without any road blocks. The court opined that devotees should be permitted to occupy only one side of the road. So far as Pongola could not be performed within the temple compound or at least around it, there was nothing wrong in stretching the line of women devotees to Kanyakumari or going straight in the opposite direction on the National Highway to Attingal or beyond.

The government could not take refuge under religious institutions for permitting others to hold meetings on roadsides, the court said.

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