HC bans Govindas below 18 yrs of age

Mumbai :  The Bombay High Court on Monday banned participation of children below 18 years in human pyramids during the popular ‘Dahi Handi’ festival, citing fatal accidents during the celebrations.

The court also directed the Maharashtra government to restrict the height of human pyramids to 20 feet.

Earlier this month, the Child Rights Commission had banned the deployment of Govindas under 12 years of age but most mandals ignored the diktat despite the death of a 14-year-old in Navi Mumbai and a 19-year-old in Oshiwara during practice sessions.

A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode asked the state to issue a circular by Tuesday with regard to the age bar and restricting the height of human pyramids.

The court’s directives came while hearing various PILs, including one filed by Chembur-based social worker Swati Patil, who is the secretary of Utkarsh Mahila Samajik Sanstha, an NGO.

Issuing various directions to ensure safety of the Govindas, the high court asked the organisers to give due importance to the health and safety of the participants.

“We appeal to the organisers of dahi handi to take into consideration the health and safety of the Govindas rather than going after the money offered by various organisations to the winners,” the bench said.

FPJ had highlighted the danger to children in a series of reports last year. One of them, captioned, `Don’t put child Govindas at risk’ (Aug 28, 2013), pointed out that Janmashtami mandals invariably use five-year olds to reach the summit of human pyramids over 35-feet-high. The article also pointed out that in 2012, two 9-year-old Govindas from Thane — Bhushan Sharma and Sukarya Wagh — suffered fractures after falling off human pyramids.

The court on Monday also directed the organisers to inform the local competent authority well in advance, but not less than 15 days ahead of the festival, the exact venue and timing of the celebration.

The organisers have to give an undertaking that they will make available immediate medical help, including ambulance, first aid and other infrastructure necessary to treat injured Govindas and move them to nearby hospital. They will also provide helmets and safety belts to Govindas.

The state government has been further directed to amend certain sections of the Bombay Police Act and the Maharashtra Police Act which define “dangerous activities” to include higher human pyramids which would then invite penal action. Input:

Agencies

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