“Politically Motivated” Bombay HC Junks PIL Against Maharashtra’s Holiday Declaration for Ram Temple Consecration

Mumbai: A special bench of the Bombay High Court, comprising Justices GS Kulkarni and Neela Gokhale, heard a public interest litigation (PIL) on Sunday.

The Court said our judicial conscious is shocked to see such politically motivated allegations made in the Petition and concluded that it has no doubt that the PIL has been filed for extraneous reasons. The Court said that the intention of Law Students filing this PIL is something else.

However the High Court refrained itself from imposing cost and cautioned the students to be careful in future.

The Court referred to its earlier decision dated 5th Jan 2022, in the case of Kishnabhai Nathubhai Ghutia and Another Versus The Hon’ble Administrator Union Territory (W.P NO. 9602 OF 2021), where in the Court while rejecting the petition observed that the petition was filed for political milege as holidays were in the executive domain.

After referring to various other decisions of different High Courts, the court said such a decision is taken to foster secularism.

The court also expressed its concern over the approach of these young student, who are the petitioners in this public interest litigation.

The Court expressing its shock agreed the submission of AG Saraf that the petition has political overtones and is politically motivated and publicity- seeking petition.

This PIL was filed by four law students – Shivangi Agarwal, Satyajeet Siddharth Salve, Vedant Gaurav Agarwal, and Khushi Sandeep Bangia from MNLU, Mumbai, GLC, and NIRMA law school, challenges the Maharashtra government’s decision to declare January 22 as a public holiday. This day marks the consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

There were five intervenors before the Court supporting the declaration of Holiday on 22nd Jan For Ram Temple Consecration.

The Maharashtra government announced this public holiday on Friday. The petitioners, in their plea, argued that celebrating a religious event with a public holiday undermines the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution. They contend that the state’s association or promotion of any religion is unconstitutional.

The petitioner stated that an act of the Government in celebrating and openly participating in the consecration of a Hindu temple thereby associating with a particular religion is nothing but a direct attack on the principles of secularism.

It was further argued that the notification declaring holiday is ultravires to Section 25 of Negotiable Instruments Act.

The students further emphasize that public holidays should not be declared at the discretion of the ruling political party and should be reserved for commemorating patriotic individuals or historic figures, not religious events.

AG Birendra Saraf submitted that declaring holiday is a policy decision and it has been held by the Supreme Court also that such policy decisions can’t be intervened. He added:

“The secular fibre of thsi country is not fragile and they are known to have celebrated many occassions and this is an occasion where people want to celebrate. But this declaring of holiday is not arbitrary or unconstitutional.”.

AG Saraf also submitted that the petition challenging the notification and the manner in which it is submitted on the face of it has political overtones. The union notification is not on record. For such reasons any action on such prayer is not maintainable. The notification of 1986 has been on record for 25 years. This petition needs to be dismissed on this count.

Dr. Saraf also drawn attention of the Court to the plea against declaring the bday of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as a public holiday.

Maharashtra joins several other states in declaring a holiday for the Ram Temple consecration. Other states have announced half-holidays or school closures. Additionally, Goa and Madhya Pradesh have declared a public holiday for the occasion. Central government offices will operate for half the day, and public sector banks will remain closed until 2:30 PM on January 22. Notably, the stock exchanges NSE and BSE were open on Saturday in anticipation of the January 22 closure.

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