Del HC | While religious sentiments of society must be respected, right to life & health of public at large can’t be sacrificed at altar of right to celebrate a festival: HC refuses permission to celebrate Chhat Puja at public places

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, JJ., while addressing the instant matter observed that,

While religious sentiments of all sections of the society must be respected, the right to life and health of the public at large cannot be sacrificed at the altar of a right to celebrate a festival, however, significant it may be for a particular community.

This is the time to scale down to contain the infection and not to escalate the same.

The instant petition was filed in order to quash and set aside an order passed by the Chairperson, State Executive Committee, Delhi Disaster Management Authority, GNCTD directing all the authorities concerned to ensure that the Chhat Puja festival/celebrations in the month of November, 2020 shall not be allowed in public places, grounds/river banks (Ghats)/temples etc. in NCT of Delhi and the public be encouraged to celebrate the same at their homes in these times of COVID-19 pandemic.

Petitioners Counsel submitted that the fact that Chhat Puja is a major festival has not been taken in to consideration. For the past several years, the petitioner has been organising Chhat Puja and he may be permitted to organize the Puja with all the safety measures.

It is contended that the directions issued by the respondent/authorities not to organise such a Puja during the COVID-19 pandemic overlooks the religious sentiments of the people and amounts to violating their right to conduct ceremonies at public places.

Bench stated that the petitioner has lost sight of the COVID-19 pandemic situation in Delhi where even as per the Delhi Government, a third wave is underway.

In view of the above-stated circumstances, the petitioner cannot expect the respondent to permit to organise Chhat Puja for over 2 lakhs persons at a public place in Delhi.

Further, the Court added that if permission to organise Chhat Puja will be granted, it would turn the said celebration into a super spreader of the infection.

In today’s day and time, the petitioner/Trust’s desire to celebrate Chhat Puja at such a large scale at public places, is belied by the existing ground reality prevalent in Delhi. The petitioner/Trust should have been alive to the said situation before approaching the court for such a relief.

Hence, in view of the above discussion Court found no reason to interfere in the order issued regarding non-allowance of any person to gather in public places to celebrate Chhat Puja on 20-11-2020.[Shri Durga Jan Seva Trust v. GNCTD, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1456, decided on 18-11-2020]

Advocate for the Petitioner: Ranjan Chaudhary

Sanjay Ghose, ASC with Advocate, Naman Jain

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