Bombay High Court on 11 August 2014 banned participation of Govindas below the age of 18-years in Dahi Handi celebration that is held during Krishna Janmashtami. It further ordered the organisers to regulate the height of Dahi Handi and fixed it not beyond the height of 20 feet.
In its order, the Court also directed that the Dahi Handi should not be organised on concrete roads, so that any fatal accidents do not take place. Apart from this, the Court also made it compulsory for Govindas who participate in the human pyramid formation to wear safety gear like helmets.
The decision came from a division bench of Justice VM Kanade and PD Kode and they also directed the state to issue a circular by 12 August 2014 with regard to the age bar and restriction on height of human pyramids. Dahi Handi performance of 2014 is scheduled to be organised in 18 August 2014.
The order was given while hearing various public interest litigations including one by Chembur based social worker Swati Patil, who is the secretary of Utkarsh Mahila Samajik Sanstha an NGO. Earlier on 10 August 2014 two boys aged 14 and 19 were killed during the practice of formation of human pyramids by the Govindas for breaking the Dahi Handi.
The Court also formed a committee comprised of the ward officer or local Municipal Corporation, in-charge of local police station and any local elected member to ensure that the guidelines framed by the court are followed during the festival. It also asked the charity commissioner to inquire into the sources of funding for Dahi Handi mandals.
Steps suggested by the Court for protection during the Dahi Handi celebration
• The local competent authority should be informed by the organisers not less than 15 days ahead of festival of their plans to put the Handi
• The exact venue and timing of celebrations should be informed to the authorities
• The organisers should make available immediate medical aid including first aid, ambulances and other necessary infrastructures that is necessary to treat injured Govindas and take them to nearby hospitals
• To minimise the injury in case of fall, the Court ordered organisers are responsible for providing safety belts and helmets to Govindas and put thick cushion layers at the venue or around human pyramids
• Mandals will have to provide names, addresses, photographs and age proofs of Govindas who will participate in the human pyramids to the competent authority
• Mandals will have to provide consent letter from each Govinda and also take out insurance policies for all of them and a copy of the document would have to be submitted to the government
The Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights on 14 July 2014 prohibited the use of children below 12 years in making human pyramids during Dahi Handi celebrations. However a division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice P.D. Kode observed that the Juvenile Justice Board and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act consider 16 to 18-year-olds as children.
Section 143(B) of the Maharashtra Police Act should be amended but will take time and hence would not be implemented in August 2014. The section defines dangerous activities as those where persons bury themselves underground and seal themselves during performances.
The amendment of the Police Act and the Maharashtra Police Act will also include high human pyramids under dangerous activities, which would then invite penal action.
Who: Bombay High Court.
When: on 11 August 2014