The Supreme Court on Monday, 18 September, dismissed a petition challenging the Madras High Court order prohibiting the sale of Lord Ganesha idols made of plaster of Paris (PoP).
Dismissing the plea by an artisan who had made Lord Ganesha’s idols in keeping with the orders by customers, a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, said eco-friendly materials like fresh clay can be used for the making of Lord Ganesha idols.
Dismissing the plea, the bench said that it would pass the order.
Sought restoration of 16 Sept order
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the artisan, sought the restoration of the 16 September order passed by a single judge of the Madra High Court permitting the sale of Lord Ganesha idols made of PoP, but with conditions that the seller of idols should maintain a register having the details of the purchasers and local authorities’ would make arrangement of water tanks for their immersion.
However, this was opposed by a lawyer appearing for the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) who told the bench that the 2023 May guidelines issued by CPCB stated that the idols should be made of eco-friendly material and should not be immersed in water bodies and rivers.
The CPCB lawyer told the bench that guidelines clearly stated that plaster of Paris should not be used in the making of the idols, and not even a small component of PoP should be in them.
The matter came to be heard on Monday following a mention by senior advocate Divan seeking an urgent hearing, stating that the division bench has stayed the single judge order in a special sitting on Sunday.
The hearing was after an appeal by the Tirunelveli District Collector, who had challenged the 16 September single-judge order permitting the sale of Lord Ganesha idols made of PoP.
The 17 September hearing
Later, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the 17 September Madras High Court’s division bench order staying the 16 September single-judge order which allowed the making and selling of Lord Ganesha idols ahead of Ganesha Chaturthi while restraining immersion of non-eco-friendly ones in water bodies.
A bench of Justice SS Sonder and Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy had a special sitting on Sunday and stayed the operation of the single-judge order permitting the sale of Lord Ganesha idols made of plaster of Paris.
“There shall be an order of interim stay of the operation of the order dated 16 September, 2023. The appellant may take appropriate action against anyone to prevent manufacturing, selling and immersion of idols made of plaster of Paris or plastic etc. in adherence to revised guidelines.” The division bench ordered.
The single judge of the high court, Justice GR Swaminathan, by an interim order, while permitting the sale of Lord Ganesha idols made of PoP, stated that their immersion in water bodies could be restricted.
The single judge had said that sellers of Lord Ganesha idols should maintain a register recording details of their buyers so that the authorities could make arrangements for their immersion.
The division bench had relied upon the orders of the National Green Tribunal and an earlier order of the division bench upholding the CPCB guidelines and stated that these are applicable in the state even in the absence of specific rules by the state government.