The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered status quo against the use of Idgah Maidan at Chamarajpet in Bengaluru for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations on August 31 and September 1.
“Why can’t you hold your puja somewhere else?” Justice Indira Banerjee, leading a three-judge Bench, asked the Karnataka government and the municipal corporation. “We think there should be status quo… Especially when the land was never used for any other purpose for 200 years,” Justice A.S. Oka, on the Bench, orally observed.
Justice M.M. Sundresh enquired if the authorities had made any arrangements for the celebrations. The court finally ordered both parties to maintain status quo, as of date, with regard to the land. Parties can agitate their issues or questions before the Single Bench of the High Court on September 23, it said in the order.
The case saw a eventful train of events during the post-lunch session.
Also read: Three-day Ganesh festivities at Idgah Maidan
The case was originally listed before a Division Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia. However, the Bench could not reach a consensus due to difference of opinion between the two judges. The case was referred back to the Chief Justice.
The parties made a mentioning before Chief Justice U.U. Lalit, who was about to rise after the day’s work. They sought an urgent hearing in the evening itself. They even offered to have the hearing at the CJI’s residence.
The Chief Justice, after enquiring whether any judges were available to constitute a Bench after court hours, zeroed in on Justices Banerjee, Oka and Sundresh. The three-judge Bench sat at 4.15 p.m. for over two hours, hearing the lawyers’ arguments in court.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for the Waqf Board, said the case touched on the right to religious freedom. He submitted that an attempt was on to change the character of the Idgah land.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the State, countered that the Board cannot claim exclusive possession. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for the Board, countered that the Places of Worship Act prohibited any change in the identity of a property used for religious purposes.
A 1964 Supreme Court decision had itself identified the space as Idgah land, Mr. Dave submitted.
“If an injunction had been granted against BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) not even to enter, how can they celebrate a festival here?” the Bench asked, disposing of the special leave petition.