Dahi Handi: HC refuses to get into height, age limits

Gladys Abbott
August 8, 2017

Three years ago, in August 2014, the High Court had directed the government to ensure that the height of human pyramids was restricted to 20 feet or four tiers, and the minimum age of "Govindas" was 18. The state government assured the court it will as per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 restrict children below 14 years from participating in human pyramids.

A Division Bench of Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Makarand Karnik held that the court can not impose restrictions on the height of human pyramids or the age of participants. Dahi Handi is the most popular street festival in Mumbai where thousands take to the streets and form human pyramids. Added Justice Gavai, "Accidents can happen anywhere and at any time".

The high court remarked it could not interfere with matters of the state legislature and it could at best only examine whether the state's rules were in consonance with the constitutional Rights to Life and Liberty. The court also accepted the government's undertaking that no children, below the age of 14 years, will be allowed to take part in the festival. "If there is no incongruity with Articles 14 and 21, we can not interfere... Every day, while taking selfies, people fall from high rises or hill tops; can we regulate them?"

Last week, a bench of Supreme Court comprising Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R Banumathi referred the plea of Maharashtra government seeking relaxation in 2014 order to High Court and asked it to grant a hearing on August 7.

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Shelar also thanked Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the home and law and judiciary portfolios, to giving personal attention to the issue and requesting additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta to appear in the Bombay High Court.

During the hearing on Monday, the bench felt that restrictions on height can be decided by the Maharashtra legislature.

The judges said, "This court cannot impose any restrictions on the age of the participants and neither can we decide on the height of the human pyramids".

He also said the state had submitted an affidavit in the Apex Court enlisting the remedial and preventive security measures such as the availability of immediate medical aid, a helpline, ambulances at the sites of dahi handi pyramids, and that all Govindas or participants of the pyramid will also be insured of the amount of Rs10 lakh each.

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