The Supreme Court on Friday declined to entertain a public interest litigation by NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace seeking strict regulation of religious processions or "shobhayatras" where people brandish weapons, saying "Why do we always want to portray religious festivals are the time for riots?"
A bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud told the petitioner's counsel to look at Ganesh puja celebrations in Maharashtra, where lakhs of people gather but no riots occur, and also shobayatras in Maharashtra, and untoward incidents are hardly reported.
The NGO, whose secretary is activist Teesta Setalvad, sought a ban on brandishing of weapons in shobhayatras. The Chief Justice told the NGO's counsel, do not portray as if all religious processions as a source of riot, and pointed out that law and order is state subject and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, issues are different as it questioned how can the court monitor it?
The PIL claimed riots have become a common occurrence during such 'shobhayatras' taken out during religious festivals and urged the apex court to pass strict regulation for such religious 'shobhayatras' across the country.
The bench said, "What is this PIL about? We are sorry. We are not going to entertain this one. It is wrong to have such an assumption."
Senior advocate C.U. Singh, counsel for the petitioner, submitted that only the Supreme Court can do something to prevent violence and riots during religious gatherings and processions.
The bench added that prayers in the PIL are not judicially manageable as the subject matter is dealt by states and hence, it cannot interfere.
Singh contended the plea is on laying down guidelines and also pointed out that processions are held brandishing weapons like swords etc and it happens during religious festivals.
However, the bench said it will not entertain the petition and individual grievances can be examined by the concerned high court. The top court said police also fall under the state list and "the country is diverse and issues in a district of a state are different than another district and the state can regulate them".
The bench, also comprising Justice P.S. Narasimha, said the apex court cannot be dragged into every area of law and order which is under the state. The petitioner's counsel asked the court to allow him to withdraw the plea. However, the bench said it would not allow the withdrawal of the plea with such prayers and dismissed the PIL seeking to regulate religious processions and have a standard operating procedure for the same.