Bombay HC dismisses PIL against holiday for Ram Mandir event

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Sunday dismissed the PIL filed by four law students challenging the public holiday declared by the Maharashtra government on Monday on account of Ram Temple consecration. A bench of Justices Girish Kulkarni and Neela Gokhale held a special hearing for the PIL. The bench held that it was a politically motivated, frivolous and vexatious petition.

Law students — Shivangi Agarwal, Satyajeet Siddharth Salve, Vedant Gaurav Agrawal and Khushi Sandeep Bangia — had moved the high court challenging the state government’s decision to declare a public holiday on Monday for the consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Through the PIL, the petitioners alleged that declaring a public holiday to celebrate a religious event violates the principles of secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

The PIL also claimed that the state cannot associate with or promote any particular religion. The petition further says that the Ram Mandir consecration ceremony is being held before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, which is not merely a coincidence. It also argued that though five acre land has been given to Sunni Waqf Board for a mosque as per the SC order, the construction of the mosque has not even started yet.

However, the high court bench observed that the PIL was politically motivated and advised the law students to spend their time on doing better things.

“We have no doubt that this is an abuse of the process of law. Such proceedings cannot be kept pending and are required to be dismissed with exemplary cost. However, we refrain ourselves from imposing cost with the hope the petitioner in future will be more careful when they attend to appear in person in a PIL,” the bench said.

The petitioners had also argued that only the Centre can declare such a holiday and a state government does not have these powers. However, the Maharashtra government argued that declaring a holiday falls within the executive policy decision of the government and should not fall for judicial scrutiny.

The court agreed with the state’s stand and held, “We find ourselves in complete agreement to the consistent view taken by different courts that declaration of holidays falls in the realm of executive decision, which is declared as a matter of policy considering the requirements of different religions.”

Coming down heavily on the petitioners, the bench even expressed doubts whether the statements made in the petition were actually made by the students. Holding that there were some reckless statements in the petition, the bench asked on whose motivation or at whose instance have those statements been included in the plea. “The petition has political overtones and it appears to be a petition that is politically motivated and a publicity interest litigation,” the bench said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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