The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to relax conditions put by the Bombay high court like barring youths below 18 years of age from participating in Dahi Handi ritual of the Janmashtami festival in Maharshtra and capping the height of the human pyramid at 20 feet.
"We will continue with the Bombay high court order relating to banning participation of youth below 18 (years of age) and fixation of the maximum height (20 feet). We will hear other issues in detail later," a bench of Justices A R Dave and L Nageswara Rao said.
The order came on a plea of Maharashtra government seeking clarification of an earlier apex court decision by which it had stayed the operation of the high court verdict fixing the height of the human pyramid and banning participation of those below 18 years in Dahi Handi ritual.
The bench was unimpressed with the plea of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra, that 'Govinda' symbolises Lord Krishna and there is a belief that kids between the age group of 12-15 years are considered more appropriate for enacting 'Govindas'.
"People get hurt. We have heard Lord Krishna stealing 'makhan' but we have not heard the Lord performing acrobatics," it said.
"As a matter of fact, risk factor is there in every sport," the ASG responded.
The bench, which decided to hear the revived petition against the order of the high court in October this year, however suspended the operation of two directions passed by the high court to regulate the Dahi Handi festival.
One of the directions, suspended by the apex court, relates to amending the existing law to bar children below 18 years of age from participating in dangerous performances like being part of the human pyramid of Dahi Handi festival.
The second direction of the high court, which was also suspended, relates to the part of the order which makes it mandatory for the organisers to apprise the authorities 15 days in advance about various aspects such as place of celebration, its timing and personal information, including the birth certificates, of participating 'Govindas' on the ground of paucity of sufficient time.
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 ritual, saying it needed to hear the PIL petitioner before passing any order.
The court had sought reply of Swati Sayaji Patil, a social worker, 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 in a popular Dahi Handi ritual.
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 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.
The high court had however asked the state government to seek clarification from the Supreme Court on the aspect that its earlier order would be in force unless it had been set aside by the apex court.
Representative Image. Photograph: PTI Photo