The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice upon a plea alleging that the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, recently organised in the capital by the Delhi Government, is in violation of the constitutional mandate.
The Division Bench led by Chief Justice D.N Patel and Justice Amit Bansal sought response from the Centre, the Delhi Government and the Election Commission of India in the PIL filed by Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma. Sharma, appearing as party-in-person, informed the Bench that the ruling party in the capital organized Ganesh Chaturthi Puja celebrations in the city, and that there was widespread advertisements in respect of the same on various television channels.
He alleged that the same is contrary to secularism, which is the basic structure of the Constitution, and thereby, unconstitutional. “State is not allowed to organize any kind of religious activities,” he said.
Senior Counsel Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi Government, opposed the petition on the ground that the Delhi Chief Minister, including his Cabinet of Ministers, are impleaded in the array of parties. Terming the petition to be “politically motivated”, which is filed under the garb of a public interest litigation, he urged the Bench to dismiss the same with cost.
Furthermore, he submitted that the event has been organized taking into account public health considerations with a laudable objective of maintaining law and order across the city during the pandemic.
The Bench raised a query as to whether there is any provision in the Constitution that prohibits State from holding organizing such events. Sharma submitted that the term ‘Secular’ as used in the Preamble to our Constitution prohibits State from organizing such events. He thereafter, drew the attention of the Bench to Article 25 of the Constitution and S.R. Bommai decision.
Advocate Sidhant Kumar, representing ECI, informed the Bench that no power is vested with the ECI to deregister or derecognize a political party. He contended that once registration under S. 29A of the Representation of People’s Act is granted, there are very limited grounds on which deregistration could be allowed.
The Bench granted time to the Centre, the Delhi Government and the ECI to file their counter-affidavit in the matter, and posted it for November 18, 2021.
The plea by Sharma seeks declaration of the Ganesh Puja as unconstitutional; as also quashing of political recognition of the Aam Aadmi Party. In addition, the plea prays for declaration of religious ceremonies or promotions by any State from State treasury to be illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional. He further prayed for recovery of the entire amount released from State treasury for religious promotion.
The plea also sought for initiation of criminal action against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as well as other ministers for using public funds for promoting politically vested interests.
Earlier, the Bench refused to entertain the petition filed by Sharma alleging the Delhi Government to have released advertisement on various television channels in respect of organization of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, while granting liberty to Sharma to file a fresh petition with proper averments, allegations and annexures.