The Calcutta High Court has struck down the West Bengal government's order to set a time limit on the immersion of idols during Durga Puja, accusing it of trying to appease minorities. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced the limit as the immersion dates were coinciding with Moharram, when Muslims take out processions as well. The state had argued that the overlap posed a law-and-order threat. The court's ruling applies to private pujas, but not the large community pujas in Kolkata.
The court said that the West Bengal government had “acted in a hush-hush manner” by issuing only a verbal order and not committing the decision to paper. Justice Dipankar Datta also said that taking out a procession was not an “inseparable part” of Moharram.
Moreover, he said Moharram was not the most important observance in Islam, while “immersion on Bijoya Dashami [the last day of Durga Puja] is such a ritual for puritan Hindus" that it cannot be changed "at the whims and caprices of the state government”.
The order, passed on October 6, read, “There has been a clear endeavour on the part of the state government to pamper and appease the minority section of the public at the cost of the majority section without there being any plausible justification."
On August 30, Banerjee had said all “idol immersion will take place till 4 pm on October 11 – Bijoy Doshomi Day”. Three petitioners, who were holding private pujas in their homes, had approached the Calcutta High Court asking for the order to be struck down on the grounds that it restricted their right to practise their religion.