Published On : Tue, Aug 1st, 2017

High Court to decide age of Govindas, height of Dahi Handi

Concerned over the safety of the young and zealous Govindas who risk their lives during the Dahi Handi revelry, the Supreme Court has directed the Bombay High Court to hold hearing on the matter afresh and decide whether the age of participants could be below 18 years or not. The hearing on the issue will now be held on August 7. The apex court directive comes after an affidavit filed by Maharashtra Government on the issue of safety of Govindas. The High Court will also decide whether the height of Dahi Handi could be more than 20 feet or not. This year the Dahi Handi is going to be celebrated on August 15.

In the affidavit filed by Maharashtra Government, it has informed the Supreme Court that the Police Commissioner has issued directions to Dahi Handi organisers to make arrangements of layers of pads or mattresses. The organisers have also been directed to insure the Govindas and also provide them with safety gadgets such as chest guards, helmets and safety belts. Registration of participants is must. First aid and ambulance should be in place. Participants under the influence of liquor should be barred from Dahi Handi celebrations. Prior permission from civic bodies, police and fire brigade is mandatory for organisation of Dahi Handi celebrations.

Stating Dahi Handi as a festival in Maharashtra, the State Government had sought permission from Supreme Court for participation of children below 18 years.

Notably, the Supreme Court last year had banned those below 18 from participating in the dangerous Dahi Handi celebration and limited the height of human pyramids to 20 feet. Despite the ban, the apex court had continued to voice scepticism at the near-impossible task of verifying the age of the Dahi Handi participants and heights of human pyramids in the frenzied celebrations due to begin shortly in Maharashtra.

The Dahi Handi ceremony is annually held on Janmasthami, the birthday of Lord Krishna. It involves forming a human pyramid and breaking an earthen pot filled with buttermilk tied on a string at the top.

The petitioner had agreed to curb the children below 18 years of age from participating in the revelry but the restriction on the height should be done away. Dahi Handi is famous in foreign countries. The heights of human pyramids have entered the Guinness Book of Records. However, during the hearing, the Supreme Court had posed a question: Have the organisers won medals in Olympics? We would be happy if you win medals.

The Supreme Court had upheld the Bombay High Court order barring children below 18 years and limiting the height of Dahi Handi to 20 feet.

The festival sees neck-to-neck competition and heavy wagers. Young children without safety harness are often employed to climb the human pyramid, which can go up to 40 feet. Accidents, often fatal, had led to the Child Rights Commission frame safety guidelines in February 2014.