The Supreme Court on Friday said religious festivals should not always be portrayed as a “source of communal riots” and urged a petitioner to also look at the “good things that happen in the country”.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud was hearing a petition filed by NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace. It highlighted how processions held during religious festivals were “weaponised”, with participants brandishing instruments of death in public.
The petitioner, represented by senior advocate C.U. Singh, urged the court to lay down general guidelines or a standard operating procedure for authorities while granting permission for such processions.
“These festivals are becoming a source of riots, without blaming one side or the other. If we don’t avoid them by putting down guidelines, conflagrations will happen again and again. Authorities are abdicating their duty entirely. The court must step in,” Mr. Singh and advocate Aparna Bhat argued.
But Chief Justice Chandrachud, accompanied by Justice P.S. Narasimha, was hardly convinced.
“Equally, during these festival seasons we do not have riots. We have in Maharashtra where lakhs of people congregate during the Ganesha festival… Why do you have to always portray that religious festivals are a source of riots? Let us look at the good things that happen in this country,” Chief Justice Chandrachud addressed Mr. Singh.
Mr. Singh responded that the court cannot “close its eyes to the reality of how these processions are weaponised at these crucial times in the year”.
That was why, the CJI said, ‘law and order’ was a State subject. The court explained that the country was diverse and each district in a State was different from the other.
“Therefore the States have been given the power to maintain law and order. The police are in charge. District Magistrates are in charge… Let us not pitch the Supreme Court forth in matters which are essentially matters of preserving law and order in the country,” Chief Justice Chandrachud observed.
The Bench said courts could step in if a permission was wrongly granted or if something was liable to go seriously wrong.
Mr. Singh argued that “we mostly see problems after they go seriously wrong. People are dying”. He referred to the violent clashes which had erupted in multiple States in April this year in connection with the Ram Navami celebrations. He said petitions have been filed on individual incidents, but what was needed now was a general order from the highest court.
But the court, in its order, observed that the reliefs sought in the petition “cannot be dealt with by application of judicially manageable standards”.