Plea in Gujarat HC opposes government decision to not allow commercial Garba events


AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday heard a petition challenging the state government’s decision to not allow Garba events at commercial venues during the Navratri festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and asked its counsel to take instructions on the issue from the administration.

The nine-day festival, one of the most popular religious events in Gujarat, begins on Thursday.

Justice Sangeeta Vishen, who heard the plea, directed the government pleader to take instructions on the issue from the state administration and kept the matter for further hearing on October 8.

Garba is a popular folk dance of Gujarat which is performed by devotees during the festival, which will be celebrated under the shadow of the pandemic for the second straight year.

The government has allowed traditional Garba events in residential societies and on streets with a limit of 400 participants for gathering at any one place for Navratri celebrations and other protocols.

It has issued guidelines for the festival, including a condition that every Garba participant should be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, commercial organisation of Garba events has not been allowed this year, too, in view of the pandemic.

Petitioners Akash Patwa and Hemal Patel said the order passed by the home department last month to not allow Garba at commercial venues is arbitrary and violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution (dealing with equality, certain fundamental rights and protection of life and personal liberty).

The order is in violation of the settled principle of law and equality and personal liberty of the petitioners, the plea said.

They have sought the court’s direction to the government to allow commercial Garba events with strict adherence to SOPs and on condition that participants will be fully vaccinated.

They said the government did not permit Garba in any form in 2020 due to the pandemic, and allowed it in 2021 in limited form, while leaving out commercial Garba events organised in party plots (open sites) and clubs.