Expressing its inability to frame new rules just days ahead of Janmasthami, the state government will file a review petition against the Bombay High Court’s August 11 order that has capped the height of human pyramids formed during Dahi Handi celebrations at 20 feet and banned minors from participating as Govindas in such formations, state’s Home Minister R R Patil said Wednesday.
Dahi Handi is celebrated during the annual festival of Janmasthami, which falls on August 18 this year. “This year, there will be problems in implementing the High Court’s judgment. Therefore, we will file a review petition seeking more time from the court,” Patil said.
The home minister said he had held a meeting with the state’s law and judiciary department officials, additional chief secretary (home) and the state’s director general of police on the issue and the consensus was that it would take time to formulate rules to implement the HC order.
Patil said that while doing this, the state also needed to take into consideration the feelings of various stakeholders. “It is not proper to shut a religious festival this way suddenly,” he said. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was more circumspect, just saying that the state planned to file a review petition as two days were too less for the state to formulate rules to implement the court’s verdict.
Most of the political leaders who fund the extravagant Dahi Handi festival shows have been opposed to the move to regulate the festival. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has criticised the order, saying objections were being raised only against Hindu festivals. NCP Minister Jitendra Awhad has already filed a petition against challenging the order.
The High Court, while banning under 18-year-olds from participating in human pyramids formed during Dahi Handi celebrations, had said that the age limit in both Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Juvenile Justice Act has been increased from 16 years to 18 years.
The court also asked the state government to amend Section 143B of the Bombay Police Act, 1951, to include the Dahi Handi programmes among the list of dangerous performances so that penal action could be taken against those who violated the law. “We would like to make an urgent appeal to the organisers to take into consideration the health and safety of participants than going after money. Performances can’t be termed as an act of bravery, neither can it be justified,” the HC said.
Chembur-based social worker Swati Patil and activist V K Thekkare had filed separate PILs seeking reduction of the height of the human pyramids during the festival and restriction on the participation of children.