Calcutta HC on Thursday allowed the immersion of Durga idols till midnight on all days, starting from September 30 (Bijaya Dashami) and including October 1, the 10th day of Muharram, when processions are taken out.
The HC, in its interim order, overruled the state government ban on immersion on October 1, saying that its decision was based on fear and had no material basis.
A division bench of acting Chief Justice Rakesh Tiwari and Justice Harish Tandon followed the almanac dates for immersion and directed the administration to designate separate routes for immersion and Muharram Taziya processions across the state so they would not overlap. The HC asked the DGP, police commissioners and all police stations to publicise the designated routes for the sake of “amity and harmony”. The bench also turned down the government’s plea to stay the operation of the interim order.
“The state has no religion, which is one of the fundamental facets underlying secularism. There should not be any order of precedence in performing religious rites, rituals, ceremonies and mourning among religious communities. There should be equality in every citizen’s right with corresponding obligation of the state to protect it,” the bench observed.
Responding to state AG Kishore Dutta’s repeated insistence for prohibition of immersion on Muharram day, the acting CJ said: “You are taking the last resort first. You’ve to go step by step. You are the state, you’ve the power. But don’t do anything arbitrary.” Dutta then wanted to know if the state’s ban decision went against law. The acting CJ reminded him the state took an “extreme step” based merely on apprehension. “Where is the material to substantiate your apprehension? You took an extreme step based on apprehension. You exercised power without any basis,” he said.
The bench did not forget to mention that the right to religion, as enshrined under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution, was not absolute. “In such a case, where there is any possibility or apprehension for disturbance of peace, the state has to take steps to prevent (that) or regulate,” the bench said, adding that was the preferred step to stopping “a religious sect or community from exercising its faith and rituals on any day”.