Updated: January 7, 2022 11:40:27 am
The Bombay High Court recently held that there is “no legally enforceable fundamental right to a public holiday and whether or not to declare a particular day as a public holiday or optional holiday is a matter of government policy.” It also observed that since there are “too many public holidays in the country, the time has come to reduce and not to increase them.”
The court made these observations while rejecting a plea seeking directions to the Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to declare August 2 as a public holiday to celebrate the Liberation Day of the Union territory.
A division bench of Justice Gautam S Patel and Madhav J Jamdar was on Wednesday hearing the plea by Kishnabhai Nathubhai Ghutia who, pending hearing and final disposal of his writ petition, sought an order directing the respondent authorities to issue a notification declaring August 2 as public holiday from this year.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocates Bhavesh Parmar, Devmani Shukla, Rajesh Sahani and Reshma Nair told the court that on August 2, 1954 the Union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli gained “Liberation/Independence” from Portuguese rule and became part of the territory of India.
“From 1954 to 2020, 2nd August was permitted as a public holiday on account of Liberation or Independence. This was discontinued on 29th July, 2021,” the petitioner claimed. It was further argued that if August 15 can be declared as a public holiday to mark the nation’s Independence Day, there is no reason why August 2 should not be declared a public holiday for Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
The petitioner further referred to an order of another bench of the high court passed on April 15, 2019 pertaining to the concerned Union territory, wherein ‘Good Friday’ was listed as a restricted (optional) holiday but not a gazetted holiday.
As per the said order, the argument was made that taking into account the population of Christians in the area, it was decided not to declare Good Friday as a gazetted holiday. However, observing that Christmas and similar holidays are widely celebrated, the coordinate bench had disposed of the PIL by directing the administrator to declare Good Friday as a gazetted holiday in the Union territories of Diu, Daman, Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
However, the bench led by Justice Patel observed, “That order stands on a different footing from the present case. That PIL was about the failure to gazette i.e. make compulsory, a public holiday rather than keep it optional. Whether or not to declare a particular day as a public holiday or an optional holiday or no holiday at all is a matter of government policy. There is no legally enforceable right that can be said to have been infringed. Nobody has a fundamental right to a public holiday.”
It held, “As it is, we have far too many public holidays in this country. Perhaps the time has come to reduce, not increase, the number of public holidays. We do not see any substance in the petition. It is rejected.”
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