Stringent Restriction on altitude of the idol concerning the health and safety of the public: Cuttack High Court

The Special Relief Commissioner and Chief Secretary to the Government of Odisha mandating that the size of the idol shall be less than 4 feet in light of the threat to health and safety of the people held in the Hon’ble Justice B.P. Routray in the matters of Balubazar Puja Committee and other v. State of Odisha and another. [W.P.(C) No. 28467 of 2021].

The facts of the case arise from the petitioner have filed an additional affidavit quoting a purported statement of a government official and increasing the height of the idol would not pose any threat of the spread of COVID-19. The petitioner has strenuously pleaded for waiver of the conditions specified to the puja celebrations being organized by the Petitioner. The Durga Puja festival has a special significance. According to the petitioner, the clay statue of goddess Maa Durga of the Balubazar Puja Committee known as Mrunmaya Murti has been constructed since 1514 with a height of 7.5 feet to 8 feet. The festival of Maa Durga has been known as Sarbajanin Durga Puja from the year 1882 onwards. The petitioner contended that the no jurisdiction in the State Government insisting that the height of the idol should not exceed 4 feet as that has no nexus to the danger posed by the pandemic. Hurts the religious sentiments of the people of Cuttack. The State Government should not be ‘Adamant’ in insisting on enforcement of the above restriction on the height of the idol. 

The petitioner pointed out that the Puja Committees had already constructed the idols even before the State Government could issue the order. The status of the idols made was incomplete and up to a height of 5 feet. The Durga Puja Festival itself is a combination of several elements of celebration and the idol is one important component. 

The Hon’ble Court said that the Covid-19 situation may not be the same as it was in the previous month, the country as a whole and Odisha too is still not free from Covid-19 entirely. The apprehension that any large congregation of people might turn out to be a super spreader event is real and not imaginary. “The court is of the view that no case has been made out for modifying the condition in the order and that too only for the petitioner, the height of the idol should not exceed 4 feet”. Accordingly, the writ petition is dismissed. 


Click here to read the judgment.

Judgement Reviewed by Kaviya S.

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