Law Students Challenge Maharashtra Government’s Holiday Declaration for Ram Mandir Consecration


In a significant legal development, four law students from prominent institutions—MNLU Mumbai, GLC, and NIRMA Law School—have filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court challenging the Maharashtra government’s recent notification declaring January 22, 2024, a public holiday in honor of the consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

The petition, filed by Shivangi Agarwal, Satyajeet Siddharth Salve, Vedant Gaurav Agrawal, and Khushi Sandeep Bangia through Talekar and Associates, calls for the constitution of a special bench to hear the matter promptly.

At the heart of the legal challenge is the assertion that the government’s act of declaring a public holiday for a religious event contradicts the principles of secularism enshrined in the Constitution. The petition argues that the state should remain neutral and not associate with or promote any specific religious belief.

Citing previous Supreme Court judgments, the petition emphasizes secularism as a fundamental constitutional mandate. It draws attention to the landmark case of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, where the Supreme Court held that any state government deviating from the secular course renders itself liable to action under Article 356, potentially facing dismissal.

Moreover, the petitioners contend that the timing of the consecration, just before the 2024 parliamentary elections, raises suspicions of political motivations behind the government’s decision. They argue that the act of celebrating a Hindu temple consecration could be construed as a targeted move to sway a particular section of society, potentially influencing the upcoming elections.

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The petition also challenges the Maharashtra government’s jurisdiction in issuing the notification under Section 25 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. The argument asserts that only the central government holds the authority to declare public holidays under this provision, questioning the state’s prerogative in this matter.

The students express concern over the potential abuse of power, stating that public holiday declarations should not be subject to the whims of the political party in power. They assert that holidays should be reserved for commemorating patriotic personalities or historic figures, rather than for celebrating religious events that could be perceived as appeasement.

As the legal battle unfolds, it brings to the forefront critical questions about the intersection of religion and governance, highlighting the need for a nuanced approach to maintain the secular fabric envisioned by the Constitution. The case could set a precedent for the delicate balance between religious freedom and the state’s commitment to secularism, resonating far beyond the borders of Maharashtra.