The Delhi High Court on Wednesday (November 18) cited the right to health while dismissing a petition challenging the ban on the holding of Chhath Puja at public places like ponds and riverbanks in Delhi in view of COVID-19.
The court stated: “It appears the petitioner is not alive to the COVID-19 situation in Delhi. Any such permission, if granted, would necessarily result in such function turning into a super spreader. The right to health must be respected first. The person has to live to be able to practise any religion.”
Last week, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had instructed officials to ensure the festival is not performed at public places, river banks, and temples due to the pandemic.
Delhi health minister Satyender Jain had earlier said, “In view of safety and to avoid crowd gathering amid the pandemic, we have decided to ban community Chhath Puja celebrations near the ghats this year. The officials have been directed to take strict action against people not following COVID-19 protocols.”
The BJP protested the Delhi government’s decision. It Delhi unit President Adesh Gupta said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should honour religious sentiments of people and lift the ban. “… Had they made the preparations on time, there would have been no need to ban the Puja,” he had said.
BJP Northeast Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari said: “Every religious place has been opened by implementing social distancing norms. Then why can’t Chhath also be done with social distancing? …the number of ghats should have been increased and restrictions imposed on the number of people entering them.”
AAP Malviya Nagar MLA, Somnath Bharti, who is a Purvanchali from Nawada district of Bihar, said the government had no other choice. “I too perform Chhath Puja… everyone has the option to do it in closed spaces… In normal times, the government would not have taken the decision but people have lost lives due to the pandemic,” he said.
The two-day festival, celebrated by Delhi’s Purvanchalis (who are from Eastern UP, Bihar, and some parts of Jharkhand), involves praying to the sun god at a water body like a river, pond or a tank. Purvanchalis make up about 30 per cent of Delhi’s population.