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What policy framework decides public holiday, asks SC | India News

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NEW DELHI: What is the policy framework under which the Union government declares a public holiday, the Supreme Court asked on Monday when a PIL complained that the Centre and state governments arbitrarily notify public holidays mainly to appease a section of population.
The petitioner ‘All India Shiromani Singh Sabha’ through senior advocate Vikas Singh said while the birth anniversaries of B R Ambedkar and Prophet Mohammad have been declared as public holidays by the Union government, the birthday of tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh has been arbitrarily declared merely as a restricted holiday.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices L N Rao and Vineet Saran asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta to respond to the PIL. Mehta said these are policy decisions and that he would take instructions to respond to the PIL. SC gave the Centre ten days to file its affidavit.
The PIL petitioner said, “In the absence of any guiding principle or any authority regarding declaration of gazetted/public holidays in India, the executive at the behest of political groups, who are in power/government, declare the holidays at their whims and fancies, serving the political purpose of appeasement of a particular section of the public.”
Seeking declaration of public holiday on Guru Gobind Singh’s birth anniversary, the PIL said constitutional courts have intervened in similar matters before. It said on April 15, 2019, the Bombay HC had ordered declaring “an important festival of the Christian community, Good Friday, as a gazetted holiday in the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli”.
It also cited the “letter issued by the deputy chief minister of Delhi declaring ‘Chhat Puja’ a public holiday, without mentioning therein the law and authority under which such a declaration was made”. It said there is no uniform policy, rules or guidelines to declare public/gazetted holiday except ‘The Weekly Holidays Act, 1942’, which pertained to grant of weekly holidays to persons employed in shops, restaurants and theatres.
Demonstrating the connection between religious festivals and public holidays in India, the petitioner said, “the Centre and states generally adopt pick and choose policy to declare a public/gazetted holiday. Though they have graciously declared birthday of Dr B R Ambedkar, Prophet Mohammad birthday (Id-e-Milad) etc as public/gazetted holidays to which petitioner has no protest, but is aggrieved by the non-declaration of birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Ji as a public holiday.”
“The decisions of the Centre and states in declaring some day associated with a particular person as gazetted/public holiday and not considering the contributions of others under the discretionary powers amounted to arbitrary exercise of power and violative of right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution,” it said.

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