In view of the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the Calcutta High Court on Monday has directed the State to ensure that puja pandals and the surrounding areas are made no-entry zones for the general public during the conduct of Durga Puja this year.
The division bench comprising of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee issued directions to restrict overcrowding and ensure the maintenance of social distancing norms during Durga Puja.
“Life has not been normal for the human species since or about March 2020 and it may have been better if restrictions were put in place as to how the Durga Puja festivities would be celebrated this year,” stated the bench.
“While these pandals would be no-entry zones as far as the general public is concerned, those persons who were authorized by the puja organizers (priests, etc.) may be allowed to enter. The persons permitted to enter are to be identified and their names displayed for checks in advance,” added the bench.
In the case of big pandals, 25-30 people, organizers, and priests included will be allowed entry at all times while for the smaller ones, l5 people will be allowed, in view of Covid-19.
Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, lawyer and senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who represented the petitioner, said: “The Calcutta High Court said that five meters in the case of small pandals and 10 meters for large pandals should be declared no-entry zones. The distance will have to be measured from the place where the boundary of Durga Puja pandal ends.”
Additionally, the police and local authorities have been asked to raise awareness in small towns and villages about the necessity of maintaining social distancing and safety norms.
Meanwhile, the State raised an objection to the directions and sought a stay of the order. Nonetheless, this was dismissed by the Court in a stern rebuke while citing that “It is a matter of concern that the State finds the directions onerous. The prayer is unhesitatingly declined.”