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Refusing their prayer would send a message that Indians are refused to celebrate even Independence Day: Madras High Court

-Report by Anjana C

It has been held by the Hon’ble High Court of Judicature at Madras in the case of V. Sounthar v. The District Collector & Anr. that the petitioners must be allowed to conduct the Rekla Race for the celebrations of the 75th Independence Day of India. 

Facts

A writ petition under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution had been filed for the issuance of a Writ of Mandamus to direct the respondents to consider their representation for organizing a Rekla race and grant permission and protection for the same. The race was to be held on 14th August 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., between Bhavani and Appukodal Road as a part of the Independence Day celebration and Aadi Temple Festival of Bhavani Town in Erode
District. 

The petitioner is a resident of Bhavani town and wished to conduct a Rekla race given the 75th Independence Day of India and the Aadi Festival. To obtain permission to host the same, the respondents were approached. The invitation was kept pending by the respondents along with a representation that was sent across. Due to this and the fast approaching Independence Day, the petitioners decided to move the matter to Court.

Petitioner’s Contentions 

The Counsel for the petitioner stated that Indians are “entitled to hold functions,” and the applications moved have not been considered, further saying permission may be granted with any conditions that must be complied with. He stated that in the affidavit supporting the writ petition, assurance was provided on behalf of the Festival Committee that there would be no unlawful activities such as gambling at the event. 

Another submission made was that the event would not cause any traffic jams on 14th August 2022 between Bhavani and Appukodal Road as schools and colleges would be closed considering the weekly Sunday off. The Festival Committee had also made arrangements for emergency health check-ups of men and animals prior to their admission for the race. Considering the above, they pleaded permission to conduct the Rekla Race on 14th August 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. from Bhavani to Appukodal Road. 

Respondent’s Contentions

The Special Government Pleader objected to granting the relief sought by the petitioner. It was stated that a request of remarkable resemblance was already granted for a Rekla race on 31st July 2022 to celebrate the Aadi Festival making this a repeated plea of sorts. Since this race is often characterized by the intoxication of bulls and unlawful activities such as gambling, no permission is granted considering the greater public interest. It was stated, however, that if a direction to consider the petitioner’s application dated 5th August 2022 is given, it will be considered, and appropriate orders will be passed. 

Judgment

Independence Day is often celebrated with various cultural activities, and this race was one such activity that has been a part of Indian traditions since time immemorial.  The youth in urban and rural India arrange games such as Kapadi, Silabam, etc., to mark independence and to “remember the supreme sacrifices made by the people to get free from the foreign ruling.” Hence, the assumption of intoxication in the race was considered frivolous. 

The Court stated that refusing the petitioner’s prayer would imply that citizens are being denied the right to celebrate the country’s Independence, which cannot be allowed. Merit was found in the Counsel for petitioner’s submissions for granting of relief. The arrangement made so as to not cause traffic jams, and emergency health check-ups were also noted by the Court. The assurance by way of the affidavit filed in support of the petition stating that no illegal activities would be engaged in was also a factor that moved the Court to take the following decision.
It was observed:

“When the petitioner came forward to conduct the rekla race as part of the 75th Year Independence Day, we are afraid that refusing their prayer would send a message that Indians are refused to celebrate even the Independence Day. Therefore, any cultural programme organised has to be viewed on par with competition being organized by schools and colleges and other organisations.”

Although the petitioners were granted permission to conduct the race, they were expected to abide by some rules.
a. If these rules are violated, the concerned Police Officer will have the license to take necessary legal action and stop the race. 
b. The race will be held on 14.08.2022 from Bhavani and Appukodal Road from 9:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m. 
c. There will be no intoxication of the bulls. 
d. The 3rd respondent is directed to issue any necessary permission containing the aforementioned conditions.

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