The Supreme Court today on Wednesday upheld the Bombay High Court’s decision barring children below 18 years of age from participating in the Dahi Handi festival on the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami.
The top court also restricted the height of the human pyramid to 20 feet, meaning the Dahi Handi cannot exceed the 20 feet ceiling as fixed by the Bombay High Court earlier.
"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.
After hearing a PIL filed by a social worker in July, the HC had directed the Maharashtra government to approach the SC to seek clarification on the height of the human pyramid.
The High Court had last year restricted the participation of children below 18 years of age in forming the human pyramid.
The Dahi Handi festival is a popular during Krishna Janmashtami celebrations in Maharashtra, and human pyramids often go as high up as 30 feet.