Supreme Court orders status quo; no Ganesha Chaturthi celebration at Bengaluru Idgah Maidan

Karnataka HC had on 27 August revised an earlier order to allow festivities at the disputed site used by Muslims for prayers.

BySaurav Kumar

Published Aug 30, 2022 | 5:06 PM Updated Aug 30, 2022 | 8:38 PM

Supreme Court

In a rare late evening hearing, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 30 August, ordered that status quo be maintained at the disputed Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru. A three-judge bench of the apex court has, with its order, ensured the state government does not permit Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations at a place where Muslims offer prayers on Eid.

“Interim status quo for two days. You have your pooja somewhere else and go back to the high court,” said Justice Indira Banerjee while reading out the judgement.

The ruling is a setback for the Karnataka government, which had appealed against a 25 August order by the Karnataka High Court disallowing the use of grounds for other purposes.

That order came as a relief for Karnataka State Wakf Board, which claims ownership of the maidan and has been seeking legal redress ever since the district administration recently declared that it belonged to the Revenue Department.

But the Karnataka High Court order was revised by a different bench of the court on 26 August, allowing the state government to grant permission to festivals and other celebrations at the Idgah Maidan. The Wakf Board challenged the order in the Supreme Court.

Eventful day at Supreme Court

The Supreme Court bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia heard petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court’s revised order permitting the state government to use of Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru’s Chamarajpet for Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations.

The bench could not arrive at a consensus due to a difference of opinion among judges, so the case was referred to the Chief Justice of India (CJI), UU Lalit.

The CJI formed a three-judge bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, AS Oka and MM Sundresh to hear the matter.

Consecutive legal challenges on Idgah

The Karnataka High Court had, on 25 August, passed an interim order seeking status quo at the Idgah Maidan. The order came as a relief for the Karnataka State Waqf Board as the ground was designated as a playground and for public prayers by Muslim community only on occasions of Eid and Bakrid.

But the relief was short-lived and the interim order was challenged in a division bench the next day.

The division bench on 26 August modified the interim order to permit the state government to pass appropriate orders on applications received by the deputy commissioner seeking to use the Idgah Maidan for religious and cultural activities for a limited period from August 31 onwards.

Hindutva push on Idgah Maidan

On Tuesday, Bengaluru Police took out a route march in Chamarajpet ahead of Ganesha Chaturthi. Rapid Action Force and Karnataka State Police were part of route march.

Anticipating tension between communities, additional police forces have been deployed in Chamarajapet. Three DCPs, 21 ACPs, 47 Police Inspectors, 130 Sub-Inspectors, 126 assistant inspectors, 900 police constables, 120 personnel from RAF, and 100 from DSWAT are deployed at the sensitive location.

Over the past few days, Hindutva outfits have made confident claims that they would celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi at the Idgah Maidan. They even demanded that the idgah tower on the grounds be demolished. 

The first-time celebration of Independence day at the maidan on 15 August became a rallying point for the Hindutva outfits to increase pressure on the district administration and the revenue department to allow Ganesha festivities there.