In Special Sunday Sitting, Madras High Court Stays Single Judge Order Allowing Sale Of Ganesh Idols Containing Plaster Of Paris

    In a special Sunday sitting, a division bench of the Madras High Court has stayed an order of a single judge allowing the sale of Ganesh idols made using Plaster of Paris.

    On Saturday, Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench observed that while the sale of Vinayaka idols made of plaster of Paris cannot be restricted, their immersion in water bodies can be restricted. The single judge had thus allowed Artisans to sell Ganesha idols made using Plaster of Paris by keeping a register containing details of all purchasers which could then be inspected by the authorities.

    However, a division bench of Justice SS Sundar and Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy has now stayed the order. 

    The bench relied upon orders of the National Green Tribunal and a division bench order upholding the guidelines of the Pollution Control Board and noted that these guidelines were applicable in the State even in the absence of specific rules by the State Government. 

    The bench also opined that the order of the Single Judge could not be sustained as every Vinayaka idol that was worshipped had to be immersed. The bench emphasized that idols were traditionally made using clay and added that the prohibition was only with respect to the use of Plaster of Paris.

    Though it was argued that such prohibition would cause financial hardship to the artisans, the court rejected this argument and opined that the loss would be less since there was only a day left for the festival.

    The single judge had ruled that the artisan was entitled to sell his articles and that right was guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. The single judge had also observed that the prevention of sale would amount to infringement of fundamental right. The single judge had also observed that if the idols were eco-friendly, its manufacture and sale could not be prevented and the same would be an illegality for which the authorities will have to answer.

    The state however argued that the CPCB guidelines specifically barred the usage of hazardous materials for making idols. The state also submitted that using Plaster of paris had potential health effects and was thus a health hazard for the human life. it was thus argued that allowing sale of idols made using hazardous materials like Plaster of Paris would infringe the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. 

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