The idol makers had approached the Court challenging guidelines for idol immersion issued in 2020 as they were unable to sell idols made of Plaster of Paris causing huge loss to them.
The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed idol makers that the idols made from Plaster of Paris (PoP) have to be sold as "PoP objects" and "not as idols intended for any kind of worship or to be immersed in any water body" (Vinodkumar Rameshchand Gupta & Anr. v. Union of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Control & Ors.)
The idol makers claimed that due to the ‘Revised Guidelines For Idol Immersion’, issued on May 12, 2020 by Central Pollution Control Board, they were unable to sell the PoP made religious idols during the ensuing festivals which is causing huge loss to them.
They informed the Court that about 4.5 lakh PoP made idols had already been manufactured and were ready to be sold to the devotees during the current season of different festivals.
They submitted through their petition that: the ban imposed on sale of PoP made idols has come suddenly and therefore, it has a potential of causing financial loss to the petitioners, if implemented. And, the ban has resulted in violation of their right to carry on their trade in a reasonable manner.
The Bench of Justices SB Shukre and AS Kilor was, however, informed about an order of 2012 in a case filed by the same petitioners who had retracted their challenge to the then prevailing ban order on PoP idols and agreed to display a disclaimer on their shops that the idols purchased would be immersed only in artificial tanks.
Considering there had been a ban previously, the Court also could not agree to the submissions made by the petitioners about the "suddenness of the ban" and proceeded to dismiss the petition.
However, considering the petitioners had a financial interest to safeguard, the Court permitted them to "sell the idols (manufactured by them so far) only as PoP objects and not as idols"
The Bench imposed a condition that while selling these objects, the petitioners would inform the buyers that they are "not intended for any kind of worship nor are they intended to be immersed in any water body, natural or artificial".
Considering there were important questions of public interest involved, regarding the necessity to regulate the use of PoP for preparing different objects not necessarily in the nature of idols, the Court took suo motu cognizance of the issues pertaining to the following issues: Whether the guidelines have been implemented by other Municipal Corporations and other local bodies? And ,Whether idols made up of biodegradable material could be allowed to be disposed of by immersion in natural or man-made water bodies (water which will be used for human and animal consumption and immersion will have harmful effects on water and food sources)
The Bench directed the Registry to prepare proper petition and place before it as Public Interest Litigation on August 31, 2021.
The Court also appointed Advocate Shrirang Bhandarkar as the amicus curiae in the case.