NOBODY HAS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO A PUBLIC HOLIDAY: BOMBAY HC
Author: Sakshi Sharma, I year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from National Law Institute University, Bhopal
ESSENTIAL DETAILS OF THE CASE Court: In the High Court of Judicature at Bombay Jurisdiction: Civil, Appellate Jurisdiction Writ petition no.: 9602 OF 2021 Petitioner: Kishnabhai Nathubhai Ghutia Respondent: The Hon’ble Administrator of Union Territory Counsel for the petitioner: Mr. Bhavesh Parmar, Ms. Devmani Shukla, Mr. RajeshSahani, Ms. Reshma Nair Counsel for the respondent: Mr. Saurabh Kshirsagar Date of Judgement: 5th January 2022 Present status: Judgement Stands Bench: Division Bench of Bombay High Court Coram : G.S. Patel & Madhav J. Jamdar, JJ Opinion: Unanimous Opinion FACTS OF THE CASE The area of the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli was liberated from Portuguese Forces by pro-India forces on 2nd August 1954 and administered as the de facto state of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli before becoming a part of the territory of India through the 10th Constitutional Amendment on 11 August 1961. From 1954 to 2020, 2nd August was welcomed as a Public Holiday on account of the Liberation of the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. However, the same was discontinued on 29th July 2021.
It was submitted by Mr Bhavesh Parmar appearing on the behalf of the Petitioner through that if 15th August can be declared as a Public holiday on the account of National Independence, then there is no coherent reason why 2nd August should not be celebrated as a Public Holiday for Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
The Petitioner drew attention to an order of a Division Bench ofChief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar of Bombay High Court ina Public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Anthony Francisco Duarte. This case was pertaining to the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
In this case, Good Friday, a festival of Christians, was listed as a Restricted i.e. an Optional Holiday but not a Gazetted Holiday on the account of the Population of Christians in the UT.The population of UT is predominantly Hindu and there are only 2% Catholics in the UT.
The Division Bench, while deciding over a PIL on this issue, observed that Christmas and similar festivals are widely celebrated in the UT and directed the Administrator of the UT to declare Good Friday as a Gazetted Holiday in the Union Territories of Diu, Daman, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli.
The Petitioner seeks for a writ or an order in the nature of a writ by the Hon’ble High Court declaring that the notification which stipulates Public Holidays for the year 2022 is bad and illegal to a limited extent of not declaring 2nd August as a Public Holiday.
He further prays for a writ or an order in the nature of writ which directs the Administrator of the UT to issue a notification this year and every year thereinafterstipulating 2nd August as a Public Holiday on the account of Liberation of the UT from Portuguese Forces.
JUDGEMENT OF THE HIGH COURT
The High Court of Judicature at Bombay observes that the aforementioned PIL as cited by the Petitioner for reference stands on a different footing from the instant case. The PIL was with reference to the failure of the Administrator to gazette i.e. to make compulsory a Public Holiday rather than to keep it restricted or optional.
It is a matter of government policy whether to declare a day as a Public Holiday or not. It is within the ambit of the powers of HC to declare a day as a Public Holiday.
The instant Writ Petition to declare 2nd August is rejected as there is noFundamental Right to a Public Holiday.
The Court further observed that “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.”
It is Government policythat decides days which are to be declared as Public Holidays. Both Central and State governments have requisite powers to list Public Holidays. The Department of Personnel and Training of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions regulates the issuance of a list of Holidays for Central Government Offices during a year.
The State Governments, taking into account the demography of the state, declare a list of holidays as per the customs, traditions, practices of the people in respective states. The list of Holidays consists of Gazetted Holidays and Restricted or Optional Holidays. This division is shaped as per the demography of the respective area. Hence, it is wholly a matter of Government Policy to decide upon the matter of Public Holidays.
The plenty of Public Holidays, indeed, do make a huge impact on the administration and working of Government. Closure of Offices and Pendency of work and subsequent delay in the procedures and formalities cost our country a lot. Public Holidays, indeed, are indispensable for a good standard of Life. However, this occurs when public holidays and administrative work and governance go in harmony.
In 2003, a senior Indian government official articulated that “a holiday syndrome is a major hurdle to the economic growth of that country”. Too many holidays lead to the inadequacy of time to work which demands time and attention. This, indeed, in various ways affect the competitiveness of our sectors and our infrastructural projects take tens of years for completion.Although the arena of Impact of Public Holidays on Economic Growth in India remains unexplored, the delays and pendency of administrative work, by no means, favour listing of more days as Public Holidays.
There is a need to curb the excessive propensity among Indians towards holidays and rational criteria need to be worked upon to decide on the matters of Public Holidays on the account of cultures, practices, religious and community sentiments, and their impact on the Economy and administration. Public Holidays are both boon and bane considering the Economy and better living standards.