On Friday, October 16, the Orissa High Court deferred its decision on the dispute over the height of the Durga idol to October 19.
The dispute was raised by the Balubazaar Puja Committee and some other committees after Sudhanshu Sarangi, the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Police Commissioner (CP), ordered puja committees in Cuttack to restrict the height of the idol in their puja pandals to 4 feet as per the guideline of the state government.
CP’s order in HC questioned:
The CP’s September 17 order in HC was questioned by the puja committees. During the hearing on Thursday, the state government did not relent to the 4ft height standard after which Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice BR Sarangi’s divisional bench requested the state counsel to send a report on the status of idols in the puja mandaps when the matter is brought up on 19 October.
In a counter affidavit filed on October 9, the state government claimed that not only Durga puja, but also Laxmi puja, Kali puja, and other similar festivals during October and November are protected by the guidelines for limiting idols to 4ft.
Under secretary Dasmat Marandi of the law department claimed in the affidavit that if any relaxation is given to the petitioners herein, several puja committees, including Laxmi puja and Kali puja, may also say that the guideline is relaxed, thereby defeating the purpose of the guidelines to limit the spread of Covid-19.
State declines to budge the Durga idol regulation:
The state government declined to budge on its order stipulating that the height of the idols built during Durga Puja at the puja mandaps should be less than 4ft. Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq’s division bench and Justice BR Sarangi adjourned the hearing to 13 October after an affidavit was filed by the government in this regard.
“It is most respectfully submitted for the kind consideration of the High Court that if any relaxation is granted to the petitioners herein, several puja committees claiming to be similarly situated from all across the state, including for Laxmi Puja and Kali Puja may also claim relaxation of the guideline, thereby defeating the very purpose of the guideline to restrict the spread of Covid-19,” said Marandi in an affidavit.
Response to the petitions:
In response to the petitions lodged by the Balubazar Puja Committee and two other Puja committees, a counter affidavit was filed challenging the police commissioner’s order of September 17 denying their application seeking permission to step forward with the construction of 7ft high idols.
The CP had instead directed them to restrict the height of the idol to 4ft as per the guidelines issued by the state government on September 10.
Marandi said: “The purpose of the guideline to restrict the size of the idol to 4ft is that idol could be immersed by using trolley/auto-rickshaw, with not more than five people, so that Covid-19 guidelines may be complied with. Further, transporting the idol for immersion by way of chassis/tractor would lead to the congregation of people for darshan of the idol.”
The division bench directed the petitioners to file rejoinders, if any, before October 13.