Worshiping idols at public places is not a fundamental right, the Bombay high court said on Wednesday, when it made more stringent the norms allowing temporary pandals to be set up for festivals such as dahi handi, Navratri and Ganeshotsav on public roads and footpaths.
“No citizen has a fundamental right to worship God at a public place, unless that place is of particular significance for the religion concerned,” the division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Revati Mohite-Dere said.
That citizens have the fundamental right to walk on roads and footpaths that are in good condition should be considered by the municipal commissioners while using their discretionary powers to grant permission for putting up temporary pandals on roads and footpaths, the judges said.
The court also asked all district collectors to form teams headed by tehsildars or other revenue officers to visit municipal areas at least seven days before a major festival and inform the civic chief concerned if they notice an illegal pandal put up in public places.
The court also directed local police stations to provide protection to the civic staff.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Dr Mahesh Bedekar. Bedekar had complained about rules and regulations were not followed while festivals such as Ganeshotsav, Navratri and dahi Handi were being organised in the Thane. He said no action by authorities, even if after citizens complained about the violations.
Acting on the PIL, the court had earlier said municipal commissioners cannot exercise their discretionary powers to grant permissions for such pandals and structures, if it violates the fundamental right of citizens by obstructing traffic on busy streets or the movement on footpath. During the hearing on Wednesday, the bench pulled up the state government for its “complete failure” to comply with the directions issued by the court earlier.