Expressing apprehension that overcrowding during the festive season could lead to an “uncontrollable” rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, the Calcutta High Court on Monday ordered that Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal will be out of bounds for the visitors “in public interest”.
Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), a Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee, said no one, barring select members of the puja organising committee, would be allowed to enter marquee of the pandals. The Bench said, “When students… have been prevented from attending educational institutions for more than six months and several students stand to lose a year, it is rather incongruous that Puja festivities would continue as in the previous years.”
“Life has not been normal for the human species since or about March 2020 and it may have been better if restrictions were put in place as to how the Durga Puja festivities would be celebrated this year,” the bench said, adding that though the measures announced by the state government were “well-intentioned”, “they may only remain a pious wish on paper without any blueprint being chalked out for their implementation on the ground”.
The High Court in its order laid down a detailed plan on limiting entry of people to Puja pandals.
Directing puja organisers to barricade entrances to pandals, the High Court said that area with a radius of 5 metres for small pandals and 10 metres for big pandals will be out of bounds for revellers.
“…for the smaller pandals, a five-metre zone beyond the extremities of the pandals on all sides and, for the larger pandals, a 10-metre zone beyond the extremities of the pandal on all sides will be a part of the no-entry zone. In other words, the area covered by the pandals and the additional area around the pandals extending 5m from the smaller pandals and 10m from the bigger pandals will have to be barricaded as a no-entry zone,” read the judgment.
Also, the High Court limited the entry of Puja organising committee members – 15 for smaller pandals, 25 for bigger ones. A list of names of the organisers will have to be put up outside the pandals and only they can enter for puja-related work, the court ruled.
“The only exception would be for the named personnel, including the priest, who will be identified by the puja organisers in advance and whose names would be displayed for checks to be made at any point of time. At the smaller pandals, 15 persons will be named in the list who may have access to the no-entry zone at all times. The number will be 25 to 30 in respect of the bigger to the biggest pandals. These directions will apply to all public puja pandals all over the state, including the 34,000 pujas, which have obtained grants from the state (government),” it added.
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