Mumbai, 21st January 2024: The Bombay High Court, in a verdict today, rejected a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by four law students opposing the Maharashtra government’s decision to declare January 22, 2024, as a public holiday in light of the Ram Mandir Pran Prathishta ceremony in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
The petitioners, Shivangi Agarwal, Satyajeet Siddharth Salve, Vedant Gaurav Agarwal, and Khushi Sandeep Bangia, representing various law schools, had approached the court on Saturday to challenge the government’s move to grant a holiday on Monday.
Their contention was grounded in the argument that designating a public holiday for a religious event goes against the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution. The law students asserted that the government’s active participation in the consecration of a Hindu temple aligns the state with a particular religion, posing a direct challenge to the foundational tenets of secularism.
The petitioners stressed that the decision to declare a public holiday should not be influenced by the political party in power, emphasizing that holidays should honor patriotic figures or historical events rather than endorsing or celebrating religious occasions.
A special bench, comprising Justices GS Kulkarni and Neela Gokhale, was constituted to hear the PIL, challenging the government’s authority to declare a public holiday for a religious celebration. The legal challenge called for a reevaluation of the decision in light of the broader implications on the principles of secularism.
The petition underscored the significance of upholding secularism, stating that a state should refrain from endorsing any particular religion. The law students argued that such declarations run counter to the spirit of a secular nation and may potentially alienate sections of society.
It’s noteworthy that Maharashtra is not the sole state to declare a public holiday for the Ram Temple consecration. Similar announcements have been made by other states, including Goa and Madhya Pradesh.