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Upendra Bharti | HENB | Kolkata | Oct 6, 2016:: After issuing the order for allowing ‘in-house’ Durga Puja in Kanglapahari village in Suri, the Division bench of Calcutta High Court failed to issue for giving appropriate directions in order to not restrict Durga Puja immersions due to the ‘illegal’ and ‘unreasonable’ govt and police prohibitions of Visarjan during the Muharram processions.
Condemning the fashion by which Govt and its police wanted to restrict Bengali Hindus’ largest puja and festival, ‘Sharadiya Durgotsav’ and its final part in particular, the ‘Vijaya Dashami’ without issuing any valid order and reason, Justice Dipankar Dutta asked the Govt counsel, Whether the Govt would restrict the Red Road Parade on Republic Day, if the Eid (Id-ul-Fitr ) Namaj was celebrated on the same date of 26th January.
But, the Division Bench consisting of Justice Girish Gupta (CJ) and Mr. Arindam Sinha (J) opined against a PIL filed by one Sandipan Khan [W.P. 24462 of 2016] in the same matter that Visarjan (on 11 Oct 2016) would be allowed upto 6.00 pm for Household Pujas only. The order is unclear about the matter of immersion on Muharram day.
The order of the Chief Justice of Kolkata High Court with Justice Arindam Sinha reads as, “Considering the submissions advanced by the learned Advocates for the parties and considering the hardship likely to be faced by the organizers of puja, immersion of the household deity on 11th October, 2016 shall take place upto 6 P.M. instead of 4 P.M.
It is clarified that this extension is only for household puja on the premise that such immersion shall not be followed by procession. To make the thing more clear there shall not be an assembly of five or more persons. This restriction shall not apply to the persons who are on the vehicle. This restriction is only on the number of pedestrian.”
Some four petitions were filed earlier in the Calcutta High court in the Durga idol immersion matters as WP. 24471 of 2016 by Sandeep Bera, WP. 24488 of 2016 by Amritalal Dhar, WP. 24153 of 2016 by Ajoy Kumar Dutt & Anr and WP. 24712 of 2016 by Sanjoy Singh. All the petitioners challenged the state government’s order prohibiting the immersion of Durga idols after 4 pm from October 11 to 12 on account of Vijay Dashami coinciding with Muharram.
Terming the order “illegal, wrongful, mala fide and without any basis”, the petition asks for it to be quashed, and has accused the authorities of “putting in peril the freedom of religion and the right of the petitioners to observe and celebrate their religion”. All the petitions were heard in Monday and Wednesday consecutively.
On Thursday, the bench of Justice Dipankar Dutta issued an order to allow the Durga Puja Visarjan Shobhajatra (processions) with full honor and protection nulling the restrictions on Visarjan on 11th Oct due to Muharram as imposed by the Kolkata and West Bengal Police on behalf of the State Govt. But, it was implicated by the order of the Division Bench of CJ Girish Gupta and Arindam Sinha (J).
In his order Justice Dutta delivered, “This Bench is taken aback to find that no decision has been taken by the State Government in accordance with its rules of business or any other law for the time being in force, on paper, prohibiting immersion of Durga idols beyond 4.00 p.m. on Bijoya Dashami.
This is plainly not permissible. A decision not on paper cannot be enforced in any manner whatsoever. Some one has to take responsibility for such decision. Even if a high constitutional functionary duly empowered proposes to take a decision affecting rights of subjects, he cannot escape the rigours of reducing such decision in writing and signing it. If such constitutional functionary perceives that he is not bound to follow such procedure, that would amount to subverting the rule of law and indeed a very sad day for the State. Should a constitutional functionary take a decision and seek to enforce it without putting it on paper, there is no existence of a decision at all.”
One of the petitions was filed on behalf of the ‘Bonedi Bari Puja’, traditional Durga pujas celebrated in the city’s ancient residences. The petitioners in one writ, Ajoy Kumar Dutta and Kanchan Dutt, have filed the writ against the Kolkata police commissioner and deputy commissioner of police (North) besides the state, and have sought “permission for immersion of the deity of Holy Mother Durga on October 11, 2016, at around 6 – 7 pm.” The other writ was filed by Sandeep Bera on behalf of Sarbojanain Puja (Worship held by the community/public). Learned advocates Mr. Gaurab Basu played a key role for effective pleading for the cases with other devout Hindu advocates viz. Mr. Lokenath Chatterjee, Ms. Debamitra Bharadwaj , Ms. Sumitra Ds, Ms. Kasturi Tarafdar, Mr. Anirban Ray, Ms. Amrita Pandey, Ms. Anamika Pandey and Mr. Palash Mukherjee in favour of aggrieved Hindus.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Headquarters) Supratim Sarkar said earlier, “There will be no idol immersion after 4 pm on October 11, which is Dashami, as the Muharram procession will start after that. On October 12, again, there will be no immersion due to Muharram. On October 13 and 14, people will be allowed to carry out the immersion process for the whole. As per now, this is the final plan.” The government had made similar arrangements in 2015.
According to the petitioners, the biggest impact the decision had had was on the scores of pujas celebrated in the city’s old homes, concentrated in north Kolkata, where some pujas had a history of over 150 years. A patriarch of one such puja, who didn’t wish to be named, explained, “We are all very concerned about this. The modern pujas, in big pandals, aren’t as affected. But for us, tradition dictates that the goddess leaves our home by 4 pm and is immersed by 7 pm. This is according to the rituals of Hinduism and hasn’t been violated for over a century. This decision has hurt our sentiments greatly.”
The petition went on to claim that Muharram is not observed “on October 11, when the immersion procession of the deity prayed at the said ancestral residence of the petitioners is scheduled” and that “Muharram would not be taken out this year along the route followed by the petitioners for immersion of the deity of Goddess Durga prayed at the ancestral residence of petitioners”.
In the instant case the Govt counsel, Mr. Abhrotosh Majumder could not satisfy the Court for taking an unreasonable decision in favor of Muharram depriving the case of idol immersion. At an point of argument Justice Dipankar Dutta asked, why the Govt would not take decision to restrict Muharram to allow the Visarjan? The Govt counsel put in a perplex for a while and maintained to keep mum. Justice Dipankar Dutta asked the Govt counsel, Whether the Govt would restrict the Red Road Parade on Republic Day, if the Eid (Id-ul-Fitr) Namaj was celebrated on the same date of 26th January. It was a great embarrassment for the Govt counsel to bypass the questions hurled by the bench as ‘surgical strike’ all on a sudden.
Even Justice Dutta mentioned in his interim order, “In course of hearing, two steps of the State Government have emerged which are perhaps unprecedented in the history of Bengal. First, immersion of Durga idols on Bijoya Dashami (11th October, 2016) has been restricted and no immersion will be allowed beyond 4.00 p.m. Secondly, there is no decision in black & white taken either by the civil administration or by the police administration indicating any reason for imposing the impugned restriction.”
Again Justice Dutta finally delivered, “On facts and circumstances, there being no decision in black and white taken by the Government prohibiting immersion processions beyond 4.00 p.m. of October 11, 2016, worshippers of Maa Durga who wish to immerse idols on Bijoya Dashami in the evening would stand deprived without the authority of law. The so-called decision of the Government, which was conveyed to the participants of the meeting held on August 30, 2016, as observed earlier, is not binding on the petitioners in the absence of any material being placed before this Bench to demonstrate that such petitioners were invited to attend the meeting of August 30, 2016. Indeed no such invitation may have been sent to household puja organizers because they are not required to obtain any clearance from the police for organizing puja in their respective residences.
Apart from the above, the most fundamental aspect of the matter cannot be overlooked. The power that the State Government has to regulate processions cannot be doubted but such power has to be exercised reasonably, rationally and without any discrimination. Durga Puja happens to be the most important festival of Bengali speaking people residing in West Bengal or in any other state. Never has there been a restriction on immersion of Durga idols on Bijoya Dashami at any earlier point of time. It has been brought to the notice of this Bench that in the years 1982 and 1983, Muharram was observed on the day following Bijoya Dashami but no restriction of the nature impugned herein was imposed.
No effort worth the name has been made to satisfy this Bench that processions (tajia) on the eve of Muharram are an inseparable part of the mourning that is associated with Muharram. There has never been a holiday declared either by the Central Government or the State Government, on the eve of Muharram to facilitate processions (tajia). There has been a clear endeavour on the part of the State Government to pamper and appease the minority section of the public at the cost of the majority section without there being any plausible justification. The reason therefor is, however, not far to seek.
It also does not appear that there has been any study undertaken by the police administration of the State for identification of routes to be followed by those associated with immersion of Durga idols and those associated with processions (tajia). The administration has failed to take note of the fact that Muharram is also not the most important festival of people having faith in Islam. To put it curtly, the State Government has been irresponsibly brazen in its conduct of being partial to one community, thereby infringing upon the fundamental rights of people worshipping Maa Durga.
Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons freedom to profess and propagate religion, subject to public order.
The State Government must realize that it would be dangerous to mix politics with religion. We, the people of India boast of being a secular nation but actions of some State Governments are in deviation of the constitutional norms and principles. No decision ought to be taken that would have the potential of pitting one community against another. We are living in difficult times. Intolerance would rise in the event of such arbitrary decision of the State Government being put in place and enforced.
Prima facie, this Bench is satisfied that the petitioners in W. P. 24471 of 2016, W. P. 24488 of 2016 and W. P. 24153 of 2016 have established customary rights to perform their religious ceremonies and functions which includes immersion on Bijoya Dashami and illegal deprivation or encroachment thereof by the administration, deserves to be interdicted for protecting their rights.
For the reasons aforesaid, those petitioners are entitled to interim relief. They shall be entitled to immerse the respective Durga idols worshipped by them in the evening of Bijoya Dashami and such immersion must be completed by 8.30 p.m. Each of such petitioners shall follow the routes that they have been following in the earlier years with an intimation to the police authority in charge of overseeing immersion. There being no valid decision of the State Government prohibiting immersion beyond 4.00 p.m. on Bijoya Dashami, such prohibition shall also not apply to other household pujas and pujas organized by apartment owners in their respective complexes.”
But, such a lashing order by Justice Dutta giving a caution to the WB State Govt for their inappropriate, arbitrary and communal decision for the restrainment on Durga idol immersion of Vijaya Dashami went in vain from giving any relief to the aggrieved and deprived Hindus due to a casual order passed later by the Division bench of CJ Girish Chandra Gupta and Arindam Sinha J.
Just yesterday (on 5th Oct), the division bench of Justice Girish Gupta (CJ) and Mr. Arindam Sinha (J) passed an order to allow a village Durga Puja in Kanglapahari under Nalhati Police Station in Birbhum district where the anti-Hindu administration and police of Mamata Banerjee’s Govt in West Bengal have been denying the permission of Durga Puja in a village of 300 Hindu families and 52 Muslim families as Muslims there raised objection ogn Hindu Puja. In an interim order, the CHC permitted ‘in house’ Durgapuja by ordering the police and administration to facilitate the matter. The further proceedings on the matter will be heard later by the High Court on fixed dates for it.
In the instant case of Durgapuja Immersion, the at least a single bench of the Court held, no Muharram restrictions can be put on ‘Household’ (traditional family pujas) held through ‘Puja Vidhan (rituals)’. But, legal experts of HENB opined that all the Durga Mandaps (adhisthan of Devi/ house of the Deity) are the ho0use and seat of the deity irrespective of ‘Sarbojanin’ or ‘Banedi Bari”. Hence, where the Durga Pujas are maintained with full veneration following the Hindu Shastra (Hindu Scriptures) cannot be restricted on Muharram implications etc. if the Puja Committees are committed to stick with the Puja Vidhana rejecting impurities put in the Dashani Visarjan processions in any case.
But, after the direction delivered by Chief Justice Girish Gupta and Justice Arindam Sinha finally on Thursday, immersion time on Oct 11 is extended for only household pujas upto 6 pm instead of 4pm as directed by the police earlier But, On October 12, the day of Muharram, there would be no immersion of idols and immersion can again be held from 4 pm on October 13. In this way the religious rights of Hindus in WB for Durga Puja drastically infringed by the extrajudicial and pro-Islamic political system in Bengal.
With the fragmented directions of Calcutta High Court the Bengali Hindus in WB is now feeling someway heard for their rights to perform Durga Puja at Kaglapahari or to proceed Visarjan throughout the State without any restrictions for Muharram. But, the expectations of Hindus in WB to organise a Puja without a Govt permission or to take out their processions without any anti-Hindu hindrance are far off the realities remain in the Islamic interference. Even if the Puja committees are committed for maintaining scriptural values and rituals of the Durga Puja, they are restrained to perform the Viajaya Dashami Visarjan in the specific Shastriya time in the Hindu almanac. But, Muslims can opt their Eid timings etc. for its Govt calender without any question. The pro Islamic-face of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is exposed well enough.
Hindus are being persecuted and snatched off their religious rights in many places in West Bengal by the Jihadis. The Hijab clad Mamata Banerjee is hypocritic and shameless. But, what about the other Hindu leaders in Trinamool Congress?
POSTSCRIPT (5.40 pm): FEW HRS BACK, GOVT OF WEST BENGAL FILED AN FRESH APPEAL CITING LAW AND ORDER PROBLEMS IF VISARJAN AN MUHARRAM OCCUR SIMULTANEOUSLY. IT IS EXPECTED TO FINAL COME OF THE CHC AROUND 8.30 PM.
6.10 pm: As per Divisional Bench order in a PIL in same Durga immersion matter: Immersion will be allowed for all household puja till 6pm on Vijaydashmi. No procession allowed. OC of local Police Stations to be intimated. Awaiting for order copy.
6.15 pm: As per Hon’ble Justice Dipankar Dutta all household puja immersion can be conducted till 8.30 pm on Vijaydashmi (11-10.2016). It was not clear for Muharram day. But will this order will apply only on 4 petitioner? The Division Bench’s order, consisting of Justice Girish Gupta (CJ) and Mr. Arindam Sinha (J), will apply on rest. What a Court irony for Hindu rituals? (as gathered from the lawyers present in Calcutta High Court).
6.20 pm: Hindus are subject to political and judicial victimization in West Bengal. West Bengal Govt is fully trying to stand on its position to restrict Durga Puja Visarjan for Muharram procession.
6.50 pm: Still unable to get the CHC Order copies. Those are not uploaded yet in the CHC site also.
8:05 pm: Calcutta HC extends time of immersion on Oct 11 for household pujas. But, there is nothing in the Court order as on October 12, the day of Muharram, there would be no immersion of idols. Immersion can again be held from 4 pm on October 13 as usual.