The Maharashtra government and BJP leader Ashish Shelar have told the Bombay High Court that they have not violated directions of the HC on precautions to be taken during the Dahi Handi festival, and sought dismissal of the contempt petition filed against them.
Dahi Handi celebrations in Mumbai
The state government and Shelar, who is the head of the Dahi Handi Samiti set up by the government in February last year, submitted their affidavits before a division bench of justices A S Oka and P D Naik yesterday. The bench was hearing a petition filed by activist Swati Patil, seeking contempt action to be initiated against state home department's Principal Secretary Swadheen Kshatriya and Shelar.
In her petition, Patil claimed that the high court directions passed in August 2014 were flouted by several Dahi Handi pandals across the state, and that the samiti and its members failed to comply with the court orders.
On August 11, 2014, the high court passed several directions to the state government, including to restrict human pyramid formation to less than 20 feet during Dahi Handi festival, and to ensure that organisers provide safety gears to the people participating in it. "The government challenged the HC order in Supreme Court, and the apex court suspended the direction on height restriction of human pyramids. Hence the government did not have to issue any circular on this," state Home department's Deputy Secretary Vijay Patil said in the affidavit.
The affidavit also said that the government had issued directions to the Commissioner of Police, who in-turn ensured that conditions were imposed on the organisers to take safety measures like providing chest guards, helmets, medical aid and so on. The government in its affidavit further said that ambulances were deployed outside major Dahi Handi pandals and also additional police force was deployed to ensure no untoward incident takes place.
Shelar, in his affidavit, said his role as head of the samiti was only to submit recommendations to the government. "I had no role with regard to the norms, restrictions and safety measures to be taken during Dahi Handi festival," he said.
"It was for the government to consider the safety measures and compliance of court orders. I am not responsible for any violation of law as chairman of the committee," the BJP leader said in his affidavit. The bench directed Swati Patil to file her rejoinder to the affidavits, and adjourned the petition beyond summer vacations.