Tamil Nadu

Ban on public celebration of Vinayaka Chaturthi upheld

The Madras High Court on Wednesday refused to interfere with a Government Order issued by Tamil Nadu on August 30 imposing a ban on installation of idols in public places to celebrate Vinayaka Chaturthi this year due to the threat of COVID-19. The court rejected the contention that such a ban violated the constitutional right to practise religion.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu wrote that the right to life was paramount and that only if a person survived, he/she would be able to exercise the right to religion effectively. They pointed out that the pandemic was yet to die down completely, and therefore the State was justified in imposing restrictions on all religious celebrations in public interest.

The observations were made while disposing of a writ petition filed by ELA. Ganapathi of Tiruvallur district for quashing the G.O. He had also sought a consequential direction to the government to permit installation of idols in public places and processions to immerse the idols in nearby waterbodies, lakes and beaches by following physical distancing norms.

In his affidavit, the petitioner stated that the government’s decision to ban installation of idols in public places and also the processions had hurt the sentiments of Hindus, who believed that Lord Vinayaka would bless the world with peace and prosperity if they celebrated the Chaturthi. He also stated to have filed the case to uphold the right to freedom of religion of crores of Hindus.

Claiming that the celebrations provided a chance to forget the tough days of the COVID-19 lockdown and the resultant mental and economic stress, the litigant said the State should not act as an obstacle to such an occasion by imposing “unjust” restrictions.

He said the government could very well ensure maintenance of physical distance in public places with the assistance of the police.

“When the third respondent (Director General of Police) can make necessary arrangement for regulating the crowds in Tasmac (a government organisation that holds exclusive licence for wholesale and retail sale of liquor in the State) shops, then there should be no reason for not doing the same for regulating the devotees of Lord Vinayaka during the procession,” his affidavit read.

The litigant added, “According to Hindu customs and the time-immemorial traditions/conventions, Vinayaka Chaturthi is celebrated in open places. Therefore, putting restriction to celebrate such an occasion inside the homes of citizens is itself defeating the very purpose of the festival, which is known for installation of idols and immersing them in sea or waterbodies.”

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 6:57:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ban-on-public-celebration-of-vinayaka-chaturthi-upheld/article36372494.ece

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