Honorable Bombay High Court rejected the idea of restricting the height of Dahi Handis during the upcoming Janmashtami festival, this year in 2017. Delhi HC pointed out that accidents can happen anywhere and no one can stop accidents, they can even happen in toilets. However, a division bench of Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice M.S. Karnik accepted Government of Maharashtra statement before the court that children below 14 years of age would not be permitted to take part as ‘Govindas’. Govindas are part of the team who make human pyramid to break Dahi Handis.
Declining to encroach on the legislative domain, the judges said it was for the state government to enact suitable legislation in respect of height or age restrictions for the Dahi Handi celebrations. The court was hearing two crucial public interest litigations filed by some NGOs who expressed concerns over the safety of young children who form human pyramids and participate in the Dahi Handi celebrations.
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. It also sought stringent security conditions for the participants. The state government moved the Supreme Court seeking relaxation of these conditions, but in August 2016 the apex court upheld the High Court order and refused to grant any relief.
Last week, the apex court’s division bench consisting of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R. Banumathi sent back the matter to Bombay High Court and ordered that the matter be heard on August 7. In 2016, several organisations had protested the restrictions, some even violated the conditions and others sported black bands during the traditional celebrations.
The popular public festival has the participants, or Govindas, re-enacting the myth of the young Lord Krishna stealing butter or curds from a pot hanging from the ceiling, or the ‘Dahi Handi’. With nearly 1,000 mandals and Govinda brigades, Mumbai is one of the biggest centres for ‘Dahi Handi’ celebrations on Janmashtami that marks Lord Krishna’s birth. The festival this year falls on August 15.