The Calcutta High Court on Thursday asked the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government why it had decided to grant Rs 50,000 to each community Durga Puja committee in the state. On September 24, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced the grant and other incentives for the puja organisers.
Hearing a petition challenging the government’s decision, a Division Bench of justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee asked if financial aid was being given for festivals such as Eid too.
The court asked the state if guidelines had been laid down for such expenditures as the puja organisers were being given public money. The judges questioned the government about a blueprint for crowd control during Durga Puja.
The plea has been filed by Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) leader Sourav Dutta, who claimed that the government’s decision was not in sync with India’s secular ideals and hurts fundamental rights laid down in the Constitution.
Dutta has urged the court not to grant permission for the pujas this year to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases after the festival. He pointed out that doctors had warned that large-scale participation might lead to a tsunami of Covid-19 infection in the state.
The state administration told the judges that the grant was meant to help increase public awareness about Covid-19 protocols, and purchase of sanitisers and masks.
The Bench instructed Advocate General Kishore Dutta, who represented the state, and senior counsellor Bikash Bhattacharya, who appeared for the petitioner, to hold a conference on the matter and inform the court of its outcome on Friday, when the case is heard again.
Commenting on the matter, TMC secretary general and state minister Partha Chatterjee said, “I don’t want to comment on the High Court’s observations. This is not just a festival of Bengalis but an entire race. Durga Puja is being held with all safety and health protocols being maintained. The state government and puja committees are making efforts to ensure Covid infection remains in check. They are holding awareness on the issue. The puja is being held keeping everything in mind.”
With PTI inputs
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