In a move that has stirred controversy, the Union government declared a half-day holiday for its employees, central institutions, banks, and industrial establishments on January 22 in honor of the upcoming Ram Mandir consecration ceremony. However, the decision has ignited a debate on its constitutionality, with opposition parties and legal authorities questioning the government’s involvement in what they argue should be a purely religious affair.
Meanwhile, according to Lawbeat, four law students have approached the Bombay High Court to challenge the constitutionality of the State Government’s move. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed by students from prestigious law institutions, including Maharashtra National Law University (Mumbai), Government Law College (Mumbai), and Institute of Law, Nirma University (Ahmedabad). The four students are seeking an urgent listing of their PIL before the high court.
Their PIL argues that the declaration of January 22 as a public holiday for the Ram Mandir consecration is a violation of Article 27 of the Constitution of India, which prohibits government expenditure for religious purposes. The students contend that such a holiday should not be declared to appease a specific religious community and that it goes against the principles of secularism enshrined in the Constitution.
Their plea asserts, “Any policy regarding declaration of public holidays cannot be at the whims and fancies of the political party in power. Holiday can be declared perhaps to commemorate a patriotic personality or historic figure but not to celebrate consecration of Ram lalla to appease a particular section of the society or religious community,” the plea reads.
Furthermore, the students argue that the state government’s notification is in violation of various constitutional articles, including Articles 14, 21, 25, 26, and 27. They also raise concerns about the lack of progress in the construction of the mosque on the 5 acres of land allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board by the Supreme Court.
The PIL contends that the government’s decision to declare public holidays for the consecration ceremony at the expense of the public exchequer is a threat to the secular fabric of the Constitution. Additionally, it questions the validity of the 1968 notification, allowing the central government to permit states to declare public holidays without clear guidelines or parameters, terming it as excessive delegation.
Political backlash over Ram Mandir holiday
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also voiced its disapproval, labeling the move as a “misuse of power.” In a statement released on Friday, the CPI(M) Politburo emphasized that such actions directly involve the government and the state in religious functions, violating the principles laid out in the Constitution and the guidelines set by the Supreme Court. The party reiterated its stance that the state should remain neutral without adopting any religious color.
The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) also criticized the decision, with party chief Asaduddin Owaisi condemning it as “development for all, appeasement for none (except the majority).” Owaisi drew attention to previous instances where religious accommodations for other communities were curtailed, citing the cancellation of the Eid Milad un Nabi holiday by a BJP state government and the removal of a 30-minute break on Fridays for namaz.
Bar Council of India Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra expressed a different perspective by writing to Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud. Mishra requested the announcement of a holiday on January 22 for the Supreme Court, High Courts, and other local courts, citing the event’s cultural and national significance.
In addition to the central government’s decision, several BJP-ruled states, including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat, have also declared either half-day or full-day holidays. Some of these states, along with Goa, Assam, and Odisha (ruled by the Biju Janata Dal), have imposed a “dry day” on Monday.