Justice P. Madhavi Devi of the Telangana High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to conduct Republic Day celebrations on Thursday as per the guidelines of the Government of India.
The Judge gave the interim direction after hearing a writ petition seeking to declare the action of State government in not conducting Republic Day celebrations and not scrupulously following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) formulated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as illegal and arbitrary. A businessman, K. Srinivas of Hyderabad, filed the plea by moving a lunch motion petition seeking instruction to the State to conduct Republic Day celebrations in its true spirit and fervour.
The petitioner, observing that Republic Day was an event for celebrating the momentous occasion of Constitution of India coming into force, contended that he and his family members used to regularly attend the celebrations at Parade Grounds in Secunderabad. He claimed that he had learnt from newspapers that the State government had informed the Governor’s office that it could convene Republic Day event at Raj Bhavan independently, deviating from the tradition of holding a combined official programme at Parade Grounds in Secunderabad.
Senior counsel T. Suryakaran Reddy, appearing for the petitioner, informed the Bench that in a letter dated January 19 the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had told all the State governments and Union Territories to hold Republic Day celebrations in addition to the events being held at Delhi. The Republic Day events in the States and Union Territories should be completed before the commencement of the Republic Day celebrations at Kartavya Path in New Delhi as per the letter, the senior advocate said.
Advocate-General B.S. Prasad, appearing for the State, told the Bench that State government had already issued a memo on January 21 explaining that it would organise Republic Day event as held in year 2022. As per that memo, the Governor would unfurl the national flat at Raj Bhavan. Chief Secretary, Director-General of Police and other top officials would attend the programme, the AG said.
Citing an Office Memorandum issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, he said the Central government wanted the States to follow the COVID-19 norms as the threat of the virus still existed. In this backdrop, the State decided to hold Republic Day event as was held the previous year, the AG said.
Justice P. Madhavi Devi, however, observed in the order that the AG could not place on record any guidelines and the SOP issued by the State to be followed during any official function in the backdrop of COVID-19 situation. Deputy Solicitor General of India Gadi Praveen Kumar submitted to the Bench that MHA had issued two letters. While one referred to the Republic Day celebrations to be held in New Delhi and the other was with regard to the event to be convened in the States and the Union Territories.
The Judge said in the order that State should conduct Republic Daycelebrations and Republic Day parade since it could not present the COVID-19 protocol for the current situation. The judge observed that the AG’s submission that preparations are being made for webcasting of the celebrations at Raj Bhavan to reach the citizen far and wide “is not satisfactory to say that the celebrations are being held in grand manner befitting the majesty of the occasion”.