In a special setting on Sunday, the Bombay High Court dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by four law students challenging the Maharashtra government’s decision declaring a public holiday on January 22, on account of the Pran Pratishtha ceremony at Ram Lalla Mandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, news agency ANI reported.
A bench of Justices Girish Kulkarni and Neela Gokhale—which held the special hearing filed by four law students from Maharashtra and Gujarat— observed that the petition was “politically motivated, frivolous and vexatious” and advised the students to “utilise their time in doing better things”.
“We have no doubt that this is an abuse of the process of law. Such proceedings cannot be kept pending and are required to be dismissed with exemplary cost. However, we refrain ourselves from imposing cost with the hope the petitioner in future be more careful when they attend to appear in person in a PIL,” the division bench observed.
Observing the PIL to be “politically motivated” the court said, “The petition has political overtones and it appears to be a petition that is politically motivated and a publicity interest litigation. A glare for publicity seems to be apparent from the tenor of the petition and the arguments made in the open court,” the order read.
“There are …serious statements in the petition and it is difficult to believe that law students would have the ability and our imagination more particularly before entering a noble profession they can make such statements,” the order added.
The Maharashtra government argued that declaring a holiday falls within the executive policy decision of the government and should not fall for judicial scrutiny.
The law students, in their petition, have stated that a public holiday cannot be declared to celebrate the consecration of Ram Lalla to appease a particular section of society or a religious community.
“Any policy regarding declaration of public holidays cannot be at the whims and fancies of the political party in power. Holiday can be declared perhaps to commemorate a patriotic personality or historic figure but not to celebrate the consecration of Ram Lalla to appease a particular section of the society or religious community,” the plea reads.
The plea further claimed that the decision to declare a public holiday, keeping an eye over the upcoming parliamentary elections, was a “gross abuse of power for political purposes”.
The plea said there are several temples across India and if the government starts celebrating consecrations of various Gods and Goddesses in old or newly constructed temples, it would be necessary to declare a public holiday on each of such days.
“There are only 365 days in the year and they may not be enough to celebrate such consecrations,” the PIL said.
The petition, filed by Shivangi Agarwal, Satyajeet Salve, Vedant Agarwal and Khushi Bangia, sought that the Bombay High Court quash the government order declaring a holiday on January 22.
The court said the petitioners have also questioned the wisdom of the Supreme Court in an order passed in another matter and this has shaken “our judicial conscience”.
“We have no doubt that this PIL has been filed for extraneous reasons. It appears to be absolutely frivolous and vexatious and does not deserve the attention of the court,” the bench said.
There was no doubt that such petitions were a “blatant abuse of law” and cannot be kept pending, it added.
The court also questioned the political remarks made in the plea and asked at whose instance or motivation the statements were included in the petition.
“As pointed out by the respondent (Maharashtra government), there are some statements about political agenda in the plea that are political in nature…some are very reckless statements. On whose motivation or at whose instance have those statements been included in the plea?” the bench asked.
The High Court also questioned the petitioners as to how the media came to know about the petition even before it was placed in the court.
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Published: 21 Jan 2024, 03:20 PM IST