The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that youth below 18 years of age cannot participate in the Dahi Handi ritual, part of the Janmashtami festival, in Maharashtra and the height of the human pyramid for it cannot exceed 20 feet, a limit fixed by the Bombay High Court.

A bench comprising justices A R Dave and L Nageswara Rao, which decided to hear the revived petition in October this year, however, suspended the operation of two other directions passed by the High Court to regulate the Dahi Handi festival.

The High Court directions, which have been suspended by the apex court, relate to amending the existing law to bar children below 18 years of age from participating in dangerous performances. It also suspended the direction pertaining to 15 days prior approval from the authorities concerned to check the date of birth certificates of ‘Govindas’ to ensure that no underage children take part in it.

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During the hearing, the bench agreed with the High Court directions with regard to the minimum age of participants and the maximum height of the pyramid. The Supreme Court had, on August 10, revived a plea challenging a Bombay HC order restricting the height of human pyramids to 20 feet for ‘Dahi-Handi’ ritual, saying it needs to hear the PIL petitioner before passing any order.

The court had sought reply of Swati Sayaji Patil, a social worker, who had filed a petition for initiation of contempt proceedings against Maharashtra government in high court for failure to comply with the HC order. The Maharashtra government had earlier approached the apex court seeking clarification on its 2014 order by which it had stayed the high court decision banning participation of those below 18-years in a popular ‘Dahi-Handi’ ritual.

The high court had on August 11, 2014, while hearing a petition filed by Patil, ordered that the height of human pyramids should not exceed 20 feet and that children below the age of 18 years should not be allowed to participate. The state government had then challenged the high court order in the Supreme Court which had initially suspended the HC order and later dismissed the petition challenging it.

The Maharashtra government had taken a stand that since the apex court had not expressed any opinion on restriction imposed by the HC on the height of human pyramids, it was not bound by its earlier order. The high court, however, had asked the state government to seek clarification from the Supreme Court on the aspect that its earlier order would be in force unless it had been set aside by the apex court.

(All images sourced from PTI)