Bombay High Court recently noted that a public holiday is not a fundamental right. The court also noted that there are too many public holidays in the country and the time has come to reduce them.
The observations were made by a division bench comprising Justice Gautam S Patel and Justice Madhav J Jamdar who rejected a plea seeking a declaration of August 2 as a public holiday.
The petitioner, Kishnabhai Nathubhai Ghutia had moved the High Court seeking directions to the administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to declare August 2 as a public holiday to celebrate the Liberation or Independence day of the Union Territory.
“There is no legally enforceable right that can be said to have been infringed. Nobody has a fundamental right to a public holiday..As it is, we have far too many public holidays in this country. Perhaps the time has come to reduce, not increase, the number of public holidays,” observed the division bench.
Advocates Bhavesh Parmar, Devmani Shukla, Rajesh Sahani and Reshma Nair, representing the petitioner, submitted that Dadra and Nagar Haveli gained independence/liberation on August 2, 1954. It got free from Portuguese rule and became a part of Indian territory.
“From 1954 to 2020, 2nd August was permitted as a public holiday on account of Liberation or Independence. This was discontinued on 29th July, 2021. If August 15 can be declared as a public holiday to mark the nation’s Independence Day, there is no reason why August 2 should not be declared a public holiday for Dadra & Nagar Haveli,” argued the petitioner.
The petition also referred to a 2019 order by another bench of the High Court which was also related to the UT. In that case, the petitioners have raised issues about ‘Good Friday’ being listed as a restricted (optional) holiday but not a gazetted holiday.
Considering the Christian population in the area, the bench had directed the administrator to declare Good Friday as a gazetted holiday.
The division bench drew a distinction between the two orders citing the reason that the earlier plea pertained to the failure of the gazette to make compulsory a public holiday rather than keeping it optional.
“Whether or not to declare a particular day as a public holiday or an optional holiday or no holiday at all is a matter of government policy and not a legally enforceable right,” the bench noted.
The bench rejected the petition without imposing any cost.