The West Bengal government on Friday told the Calcutta High Court that it would allow immersion of Durga idols till 10 pm on Bijoya Dashami, extending the time by four hours from the deadline earlier announced by chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The government issued a fresh order saying there was “typographical error” in the earlier one.
The original order had raised the hackles of the BJP, Vishva Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which accused the government of interfering with the rights of Hindus to appease Muslims since Muharram will be observed on October 1, a day after Dashami, the last day of Durga Puja.
BJP president Amit Shah had also raised the issue during his three-day trip of Bengal earlier this week.
During the hearing of a case challenging the restriction on immersion after 6pm on Dashami on September 30, advocate general Kishore Dutta on Friday told the division bench of acting chief justice Nishita Mahtre and justice Tapabrata Chakraborty that the government was ready to allow immersion till 10 pm.
The advocate general showed the court a fresh circular issued by the government on Thursday.
On August 23 the chief minister said on Twitter that immersion would be allowed till 6pm on September 30 and there would be no immersion at all on October 1, because of Muharram.
Later, on September 9, the government issued an order imposing the restriction mentioned in Banerjee’s tweet and adding that immersion would take place on October 2 and 3.
Smarajit Roychowdhury, the counsel of petitioner Uttam Basak said he was not happy with the state’s response.
“According to the Bishuddha Siddhanta almanac, immersion can continue till 1.36 am as this is the time when Dashami ends. We told the court that the government must allow Hindus to immerse the idols till 1.36 am. The court has asked the state government to respond on September 18 when the matter will be heard again,” Roychowdhury told HT.
Interestingly, Basak filed the case on September 5. Till then the government had not issued any official order about the restriction. Basak’s source of information was the chief minister’s tweet of August 23. The petitioner asked the court how could such a crucial decision be announced on Twitter without a government order.
The first hearing of the case was initially scheduled on September 8 but it was postponed. The government issued an order on September 9, reiterating the chief minister’s announcement. On September 14, the government revised the order hours before the first hearing.
The revised order said the September 9 circular had “inadvertent typographical error” and that immersion is allowed till 10pm on September 30. The advocate general submitted a copy to the court on Friday.
Last year, Muharram was observed a day after Dashami and the government initially restricted immersion after 4.30 pm. The decision was challenged at the high court and the government was criticised by justice Dipankar Dutta for depriving Hindus of their rights. Justice Dutta passed an order, extending the deadline till 6pm.