IN THE HIGH COURT OF MADRAS
NO. 25586 OF 2004 AND W.P.M.P. NOS. 31095 & 32504 OF 2004.
Dated 17th September, 2004
Hon'ble Justice N.Dhinakar &
Hon'ble Justice F.M.Ibrahim Kalifulla
V. Elangovan Versus The Home Secretary
State of Tamil Nadu & Others
The petitioner, a pro-bono public, has filed the present writ petition. The
prayer in the writ petition is that this Court may issue a writ of mandamus or
order or direction in the nature of writ directing the respondents to forbear
from issuing permissions permitting organisation to take out processions
during this year carrying large sized plaster of paris vinayagar idols and
other idols made of any other chemicals and immersing such idols in sea,
rivers and other water resources anywhere in Tamil Nadu.
2. When the matter was listed for hearing on 8.9.04, notice was ordered to the
Addl. Government Pleader, who took notice on behalf of respondents 1 and 3. On
behalf of the 2nd respondent, notice was taken by Mr.C.Ravichandran
representing Ms.Rita Chandrasekaran. The authorities were also directed to
implement the order passed by the First Bench of this Court in W.P. No.24417
of 2003 dated 5.9.03 and, thereafter, the matter was listed yesterday for
final hearing. It was taken up at about 4.10 p.m. when the Court was about to
rise for the day after the court hours. It was then represented that this may
be posted on top of the list tomorrow (i.e.) on 17.9.04. Accordingly, we
directed the Registry to post this as the first item in the list and it is
taken up today.
3. In the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition, the petitioner has
stated that formerly the festival used to be celebrated with clay idols of
Vinayaga in keeping with the ancient custom, tradition and practice and over
the last few years a new cultural trend has gripped the State, in the name of
celebrating the festival with much fanfare spreading over a period of ten days
when various organisations in the name of Hindu religion were keeping large
sized Vinayagar portraits or idols made of plaster of paris coloured and
polished with plastic paints, varnish, distempers and chemical powders on
important road junctions and street corners. There is a further averment in
the affidavit that when large plaster of paris idols of Vinayagar are taken to
the Marina beach and when they are immersed by using large size mechanical
cranes, there occurs large scale destruction of sea organisms and this takes
place not only in the city but also in various parts of the State giving rise
to communal tensions, irreparable damage to the environment leading to
4. The petitioner has also alleged that in the year 2003 the Pollution Control
Board has appealed to the people to celebrate the festival with eco-friendly
clay idols of Vinayagar, but it went unheeded. According to the petitioner, if
the idols made of plaster of paris are immersed in the sea, it causes
extinction of fish and other creatures and sea organisms and if the sea
organisms are not dead they are otherwise affected and that when people
consume such affected fish it leads to various diseases in human beings and
that respondents 1 and 2 are bound to prevent such damages.
5. A counter affidavit has been filed by the Commissioner of Police, who is
the third respondent, wherein he has stated that action is being taken to
beautify Marina beach to maintain environmental status and that no
organisation is permitted to organise any functions, meetings, conferences,
etc., in Marina beach for the past one year with a view to maintain a clean
environment. He has further submitted that the Government's instructions are
that the materials used for idol making should be only clay and that toxic
paints should be banned and the height of the idol should be minimised, and
the said instructions have already been communicated to all the police
officers with a direction to convene a meeting with the representatives of the
Hindu organisations and idol makers in their respective jurisdiction bearing
in mind the directions of the High Court given on 5.9.03 and that the Tamil
Nadu Pollution Control Board has also directed to insist the implementation of
the directions of the High Court. It is further stated that a press release as
regards this matter was issued on 3.9.04 to create awareness among the public
requesting them to make the idol only in clay without mixing any additives or
6. The grievance of the petitioner, as could be seen from the averments in the
affidavit and the prayer in the writ petition, is that there should be no
permission permitting organisations to take out processions carrying large
size plaster of paris Vinayagar idols and other idols made of any other
materials and immersing the idols in sea, rivers or other water sources as it
affects ecological system. Therefore, the intention of the petitioner is to
maintain the ecological balance by preventing immersion of idols made of
plaster of paris and painted with toxic substances.
7. On the above averments, we heard the counsel for the 2nd respondent and the
learned counsel submitted that on 11.8.04 a committee was formed consisting of
1) Deputy Director
Central Institute of Plastic Engineering Technology
Guindy, Chennai - 32.
2)Representative of Home Department
Secretariat, Cennai - 9.
3) Representative of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department
Nungambakkam, Chennai - 34.
Department of Chemical Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology
Chennai - 88.
5) CPR Environmental Education Centre
No.1, Eldams Road, Chennai - 18.
6) The Director
Centre for Environmental Studies
Anna University, Chennai - 25.
7) Additional Chief Environmental Engineer-II
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board
76, Mount Road, Guindy
Chennai - 32.
and that the Expert Committee consisting of the above seven persons discussed
the main issues to specify the materials and size to be used for making idols
of Lord Vinayaka to ensure that the impact of immersion of the idols in the
sea and various water bodies is minimised also taking into account the
recorded public opinion on the matter and to formulate the guidelines to
locate immersion points at various water bodies as well as procedures to be
followed during immersion.
8. After discussions the committee came to the conclusion that Vinayaka idols
should be made only using traditional clay without painting since they can be
safely immersed both in water sources as well as in the sea and in case paints
are used, water soluble non-toxic natural dyes may be suggested and the public
may be asked to avoid use of any chemical based dyes. They have also concluded
that immersion in the sea should be done beyond 500 m of the low tide line and
the low tide line should be identified well in advance and for the purpose of
immersing the idols beyond 500 m proper motor boats with Home Guards and Coast
Guards have to be organised and each disposal area should have a monitoring
committee comprising of members from police, non-governmental organisation and
religious organisations to avoid pollution of water sources. The committee
also decided that awareness should be created among the public to make the
idols in the traditional method without mixing any additives or paints and to
immerse them only in designated areas and religious leaders may be requested
to appeal to the public to create an awareness highlighting the problems that
could be caused due to immersion of huge painted idols using toxic colouring
9. On the basis of the report of the committee, the Pollution Control Board
issued a press release in vernacular in tamil dailies "Dina Thanthi", "Dinamalar"
and "Dinamani" and in the English Daily "The New Indian Express" on 4.9.04
appealing to the public to use only idols made up of raw clay (not baked) for
worshipping as this could be immersed in water sources and not to immerse
idols painted with chemical based paints and not to immerse idols in lakes and
near the seashore and that they have to be immersed at spots atleast 500 m
away from the low tide line specified by the Government. The Government of
Tamil Nadu was also addressed to take necessary action to identify the
designated locations for immersion of Vinayaka idols and to declare the same
to the public well in advance to the festival to avoid water pollution due to
immersion of the idols. Similarly, the Commissioner, Hindu Religious and
Charitable Endowments Department, Government of Tamil Nadu was also addressed
to take necessary action to create awareness to the public on the traditional
making of Vinayaka idols well in advance of the festival to avoid water
pollution due to immersion of idols.
10. Thereafter, the Commissioner of Police, Greater Chennai, convened a
meeting of various religious leaders representing various organisations and
they are :-
S. No. Name and Organisation
1) Hindu Munnani (Ramagopalan) G.Karthikeyan, President, Chennai Dt.
2) Vinayagar V.Murali, State Co-ordinator Federation of Hindu Organisations.
3) S.V.Sridharan, President, Hindu Makkal Katchi.
4) Hindu Munnani (Jayaraman Group)
5) Hanumanth Sena
6) R.Kumararaja, Core Committee Member, Shiv Sena, T.N. & Organiser, Sri
Vinayagar Chathurthy Festival Committee
7) G.Radhakrishnan, State Organiser, Shiv Sena, T.N.
8) M.S. Tehnmaravar, State Core Committee Member, Shiv Sena.
9) C. Selvam, Junior Engineer, Lord Shri Vinayakar Procession Committee.
10) Jhumar Lal, Organiser, Shree Sakthi Plaza Dealers Association.
11) Bhogilal, Shree Ganesh Mandal.
12) Raja Ram More Legal Advisor, The Chinnanayakaran Traders Association.Legal
The Chinnanayakaran Traders Association.
13) Sanjay Bagaria, Tamil Nadu Iron and Steel Producers & Merchants Vinayaga
Chathurthy Celebration Committee.
14) M.K.Ramachandran, Choolai Merchants Sri Lord Vinayaka Pooja Committee.
15) A. Damani, Shri Ganesh Mahotsav Mandal.
11. Thereafter, a memorandum was prepared on 4.9.04 by the Commissioner
containing details referring to the directions of this Court and the meeting
of the Pollution Control Board convened on 11.8.04 and the decisions taken
thereon and also referring to the organisations and its leaders, who are
likely to organise Vinayagar idols immersion vehicles processions, which is
found mentioned in Annexure-II to the said memorandum. To the said memorandum
in Annexure-III, details of incidents reported in the previous years were also
enclosed and finally a direction was given to all the Assistant Commissioners,
Deputy Commissioners and Joint Commissioners to convene meeting at Range,
District and Zonal level respectively with the representatives of all the
Hindu organisations in the respective jurisdiction before 7.9.04 to ensure
peaceful conduct of Vinayagar Idols immersion processions, etc., bearing in
mind the direction given by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the
previous incidents and that they should insist the organisers not to
keep/install new idols this year. They were also directed to send a copy of
the proceedings soon after the meeting is over.
12. Annexure-I annexed to the memorandum consists of the decisions taken in
the meeting convened by the Chairperson, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on
11.8.04, which we have already extracted in the earlier part of the order.
13. The counter and the report of the Pollution Control Board and the decision
taken by the committee therefore show that the Pollution Control Board had
taken adequate steps to see that no damage is caused to the ecological system
as it has prevented immersion of idols made of plaster of paris or idols
painted with toxic substances and has also directed that even idols made of
clay should be immersed in sea only at the designated disposal areas at a
distance of 500 m from the shore line for which arrangements have to be made
by engaging motor boats, etc., which are to be supervised by the monitoring
14. On going through the decisions taken by the Pollution Control Board with
which the Government has agreed and has intimated the concerned officers in
the State to give effect to the decision of the Pollution Control Board, we
are satisfied that the Pollution Control Board as well as the Government have
taken adequate safety measures to prevent any damage to the ecological system
in the State. Therefore, the petitioner cannot have any fear that by immersion
of idols in sea, the same will pollute the sea and, consequently, affect the
15. The contentions of the counsel that there is likelihood of some untoward
incidents happening during the procession is based more on surmises than on
actual facts. It is no doubt true that on certain previous occasions certain
incidents have happened, but they have been brought under control by the law
enforcing agencies and this Court cannot pass a presumptive mandamus directing
the authorities not to allow any procession on the ground that there will be
untoward incidents when processions are taken. If any untoward incidents
happen, we are sure the law enforcing agencies, who will be accompanying the
procession will definitely take control of the situation and enforce law and
order and, therefore, we are of the view that we cannot totally ban
processions of Vinayagar idols.
16. The learned Special Government Pleader submits that as far as the disposal
areas are concerned it will be notified well in advance so as to give the
organisers sufficient time to take out processions for the purpose of
immersing the idols.
17. At this stage, we cannot but refrain from mentioning the fact that one
Mr.Ganesh and two others, wanted to implead themselves and Mr.G.Rajagopalan,
learned senior counsel submitted before this Court that an application has
been filed to implead them in the petition, and though it is numbered, it is
not listed today along with this petition. Though it was numbered and not
posted before us, we asked Mr.Rajagopalan as to the grievance of the
interveners and according to Mr.G.Rajagopalan, learned senior counsel, the
interveners submit that making of Vinayagar idols of plaster of paris will not
affect the ecological system as they are not toxic in nature. We feel that the
interveners ought to have come to this Court by impleading themselves in this
petition at the earliest point of time if they had any materials to prove that
plaster of paris is not a toxic substance, and they cannot, at the fag end of
the proceedings, come and insist that their views also should be heard on the
subject. We cannot but lose sight of the fact that the Pollution Control Board
had formed an expert committee and the committee went into the various aspects
and considered the qualities of plaster of paris and the toxic nature of the
paints used for painting Vinayagar idols and, thereafter, came to the decision
that traditional clay idols alone should be permitted to make Vinayagar idols.
We do not propose to go into this question at this hour by replacing the
opinion of the committee with our opinion based on the untested contention of
the interveners to allow Vinayagar idols that are made of plaster of paris to
be immersed in the sea. However, we are of the view that by the impleading
petition being allowed, no prejudice would be caused and, accordingly, WPMP
No.32504 of 2004 filed for impleading is allowed. However, in view of the
observations made above, WVMP No.17191 of 2004 filed for vacating the stay
deserves to be dismissed and, accordingly it is dismissed.
18. Taking into consideration of the above aspects and in the interest of
justice, we feel that directions cannot be issued for ban on the procession of
Vinayagar Idols made of pure clay and that there will be no ban for taking
such Vinayagar idols in procession for which the concerned law enforcing
agencies will give adequate protection and see that no untoward incidents
happen during such processions and that the idols are immersed in places
notified by the Government well in advance at a distance of 500 m from the
shore line as suggested by the Pollution Control Board. With the above
observations, this writ petition is disposed of. Consequently, WPMP No.31095
of 2004 is closed.
19. Before we part with this case, we hope and trust that the persons, who are
responsible for installing the idols and taking them in procession to the sea
for the purpose of immersion will also remember the true religious
significance of the procession and co-operate with the law enforcing agencies
to maintain law and order.