The Bombay high court today banned participation of children below 18 years in forming 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 ft.
A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode asked the state to issue a circular by tomorrow with regard to the age bar and restriction on height of human pyramids.
"Considering that the performance of Dahi Handi is on August 18, the government is directed to preferably issue the circular by tomorrow (August 12) and give it wide publicity," the judges said.
The court's directives came while hearing various public interest litigations including one 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.
The organisers were directed 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 ambulances, first aid and other infrastructure necessary to treat injured Govindas and move them to nearby hospital.
Organisers shall provide helmets and safety belts to govindas and cushion layers at the venue of performance.
"Provide layers of cushions of adequate size and thickness on the earth to minimize the injury in case of fall of Govindas," the judges said.
The bench also asked the mandals to provide names, addresses, photographs and age proof of Govindas participating in the human pyramids to the competent authority. Besides, consent letters of voluntary participation of each Govinda has to be submitted by the mandals.
The mandals have been directed to take insurance policy for each Govinda and submit a copy of the document to the competent authority.
Monitoring committees shall be formed comprising in-charge of the local police station, a ward officer of the civic body and local elected representative or such other person.
The government has been 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.
Section 143(B) of the Maharashtra Police Act defines dangerous activities as those where persons bury themselves underground and seal themselves during performances. "The government shall carry out necessary amendment to include such other performances as Dahi Handi in the definition," the bench said.
The amendment to the Acts would take some time and hence it would not be made implementable this time. "Hope the government considers this seriously (carrying out amendment). If not this time, at least it should be implemented next time," the bench said.