On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that youngsters below the age of 18 years cannot participate in Dahi Handi, synonymous with Janmashtami festival, in Maharashtra. It also upheld the Bombay High Court ruling that limited the height of the human pyramid to a maximum of 20 feet.
The bench, comprising justices A R Dave and L Nageswara Rao, decided to hear the revived petition in October this year. However, it suspended two other directions passed by the Bombay HC to regulate the Dahi Handi festival.
The High Court directions, which have been suspended by the Supreme court, relate to amending the existing law to bar children below 18 years of age from participating in dangerous performances. It also suspended the direction pertaining to 15 days prior approval from concerned authorities to check the date of birth certificates of ‘govindas’ in a bid to ensure that no underage children take part in it.
During the hearing, the bench agreed with the High Court directions pertaining to the minimum age of participants and the maximum height of the pyramid.
The Supreme Court had, on August 10, revived a plea challenging a Bombay HC order restricting the height of human pyramids to 20 feet for Dahi Handi, saying it needs to hear the PIL petitioner before passing any order. The court had sought reply of social worker Swati Sayaji Patil, who had filed a petition for initiation of contempt proceedings against Maharashtra government in high court for failure to comply with the HC order.
The Maharashtra government had earlier approached the apex court seeking clarification on its 2014 order by which it had stayed the high court decision banning participation of those below 18-years. The high court had on August 11, 2014, while hearing a petition filed by Patil, ordered that the height of human pyramids should not exceed 20 feet and that children below the age of 18 years should not be allowed to participate.
The state government had then challenged the high court order in the Supreme Court which had initially suspended the HC order and later dismissed the petition challenging it.
The Maharashtra government had taken a stand that since the apex court had not expressed any opinion on restriction imposed by the HC on the height of human pyramids, it was not bound by its earlier order. In response, the HC asked the state government to seek clarification from the Supreme Court, as its earlier order would be in force unless it was explicitly set aside by the apex court.