In a blow to the organisers of the famous Dahi Handi festival, Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to modify its order capping at 20 feet the height of the human pyramid in the ritual observed during 'Janmasthmi' across Maharashtra.
"No, we are not modifying it for the time being," a bench comprising Justices A R Dave, U U Lalit and L Nageswara Rao said while declining the plea of a Mumbai-based organisation that capping of the height of human pyramid would take the "adventure" out of the festival which has become a "popular and competitive" sport in the western megapolis.
The court, on August 17, had refused to relax conditions put by the high court like barring youths below 18 years of age from participating in Dahi Handi festival in Maharashtra and capping the height of the human pyramid at 20 feet.
At the outset, the bench did not agree with the contention that the festival had the colour of popular sport and there should be no cap on the height of the pyramid in view of the fact that the court has already barred youth below 18 years of age from taking part in it.
"Has it (festival) brought any medal in the Olympic? I belong to the city (Mumbai). I would have been happy if it had brought any medal," Justice Dave said, adding that this ritual sometimes caused serious injuries to participants, particulary in organs like the spinal chord.
The counsel for Jogeshwari-based 'Jai Jawan Krida Mandal Govinda Pathak' said the highest height of the human pyramid at 43.79 feet has found mention in the Guinness Book of World Records and capping it would be "unfair".
More than 1500 organisations are looking in anticipation at this court as the capping of the height would take away the competitiveness from the sport, he said.
However, the bench asked the counsel: "you cannot give assurance on behalf of other 1499 organisations that due care would be taken. Moreover, it has been claimed that 1500 people got injured in this function last year. Is it correct? How many people got injured last year."
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra, said, "as a matter of fact, risk factor is there in every sport" and there was no data on record with regard to the number of injured persons.
In the forenoon, the fresh plea seeking modification of the order relating to cap of 20 feet height of human pyramid, was mentioned by the organisation, saying it was urgent as the festival was to be held on Thursday. The bench instantly agreed to hear it at 12.30 pm.
The organisation said now that youngsters below 18 years of age have been barred from participating in the Dahi Handi ritual, the cap on the height of the human pyramid should be relaxed as adventure is part of every sport.
The Supreme Court had earlier refused to relax conditions put by the Bombay high court like barring youths below 18 years of age from participating in the ritual of Janmashtami festival in Maharashtra and capping the height of the human pyramid at 20 feet.
The bench had, 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, related 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, related 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.