[Vinayaka Chaturthi processions] "Cannot insist for particular route only because others are objecting": Madras HC

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Though the police have no right to direct anybody not to celebrate any festival, the problem arises when under the guise of installation of idols or taking out processions for immersion of idols, politics or religious issues come in, Court opined

The Madras High Court recently refused to direct the police to grant permission and protection to a Vinayaka Chaturthi procession through a particular road in Sivagangai Town, Sivagangai District.

The bench of Dr. Justice D Nagarjun noted that the police had liberally granted permission to the petitioner to take the procession through nine streets barring only two.

The judge opined, 

"The police may have some intelligence. When the police have been liberally granting permission for the installation of idol and taking out processions, when the police have permitted to install the idol and permitted the procession to be taken out 9 streets except 2 streets, I do not find any reason as to why the petitioner has been insisting specifically to direct the police to permit them to take the procession through Raja Radha Veedhi."

He said, "All the streets in the town and villages are the properties of people belonging to all religious faiths. The procession of any religion or religious festivals shall not pass through from one particular street on the ground that the members of other group/caste/religion are raising objections".

The judge added that "basically the police have no right to direct anybody not to celebrate any festival; not to install the idols and not to take a procession for the purpose of immersion. However, the problem arises (when) under the guise of installation of idols and under the guise of taking out the procession for immersion of idols, politics or religious issues come in. Then the whole sanctity of the installation of idol and taking out of procession get affected".

President of the Town Committee of Bhartiya Janata Party, Sivagangai Town M.R.Udhaya @ Udhayakumar filed the instant plea before the high court stating that his party had decided to conduct Vinayagar Chaturthi in a grand manner near Sivan Kovil, Sivagangai by installing idols at 11 various places.

He had also filed a representation before the police seeking permission to conduct a procession for idol immersion on September 22, 2023 through 11 specified streets. However, the police allowed the same only through nine named streets.

Before the court, the counsel for the petitioner argued that Raja Radha Veedhi, for which the permission had not been granted, was the street through which the temple chariot/radham was taken out every year by way of procession.

He further submitted that the reason mentioned by the police in rejecting the permission for taking the procession through Raja Radha Veedhi was that it was a narrow street. He contended that since the other festival processions were being allowed through the Raja Radha Veedhi, therefore, the contention of the respondent police that the Raja Radha Veedhi was narrow and congested were factually incorrect and for this reason, the permission should be granted. 

On the other hand, the plea was strongly opposed by the Government Advocate who submitted that the police had liberally granted permissions to the petitioner but Raja Radha Veedhi was not only a narrow street but there was a mosque on it. 

Thereby, in case if any of the members of the petitioner's organization raise any slogans or indulged in any unlawful activities while passing the procession in front of the mosque, it may likely to create dispute between the two communities and may break the law and order problem, the Government Advocate submitted. 

The single judge bench noted that nobody had raised objection for taking the procession from the Raja Radha Veedhi and in normal course the permission could have been granted to the petitioner.

He added, "However, merely because the street belongs to people of all religion, it does not mean that the religious procession shall be permitted through the Raja Radha Veedhi in spite of the apprehension of the police that law and order situation may likely to collapse or affect in case if the procession is allowed to be passed through the said street".

Therefore, while pointing out that it was not the case of the petitioner that the police had been discriminating against him by permitting other religious/political/social groups to take idols through the said street and refusing him to grant the same, the judge directing the police to provide suitable protection in respect of installation of Vinayagar idol and taking out procession of idol for immersion through 9 streets only except through Raja Radha Veedhi and another street.

Case Title: M.R.Udhaya @ Udhayakumar V. The Superintendent of Police, Sivagangai and Others