Taking note of the rising number of deaths of participants and observing that the dahi handi festival was getting commercialised, the Bombay High Court on Friday said the state government should act on an “urgent basis” so that lives of govindas (volunteers who form a human pyramid) could be saved.
Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode asked Public Prosecutor Sandip Shinde to find out provisions under which organisers of the festival could be restrained from employing govindas below the age of 18 years.
“Every year, people die or are left injured. Ultimately, it’s a festival, but now it is becoming commercialised. Young children take part in it. Some regularisation has to be there. A statutory force needs to be put in place,” said Justice Kanade.
“We can’t put restrictions unless it violates law. People can take out processions, but it shouldn’t endanger the life of participants or passersby,” the judges further said.
With private organisers not being amenable to the high court, the judges asked Shinde to find out under what provisions the state could issue a direction so that action could be taken and deaths prevented.
Justice Kode also questioned the petitioner over the height restriction of the human pyramids. “We are not experts. We can’t decide up to what level the pyramids can be allowed,” the judges said.
The court was acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Chembur-based social worker Swati Patil, who sought reduction of the height of the human pyramid during the festival. The petitioner’s lawyer told the court that a volunteer, while practicing, was left paralysed after he fell on August 7.
The PIL, therefore, sought before the court directions so that the human tiers while creating the pyramid could be restricted to five.
While asking the state to find out the provisions, the court posted the matter for August 11.