In order passed at 11:30 pm, Karnataka HC allows Ganesha idol at Hubballi’s Eidgah

The court was hearing a plea challenging the permission granted to set up a Ganesha pandal at the Eidgah maidan in Hubballi.
Karnataka High Court building
Karnataka High Court building

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday, August 30, allowed the installation of a Ganesha pandal at Hubballi’s Eidgah Maidan.  A bench of Justice Ashok S Kinagi held an extraordinary late-night hearing, and in orders passed at 11.30 pm, it held that there is no title dispute over the Hubballi ground, and the Supreme Court’s verdict disallowing Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations at the Bengaluru Eidgah maidan will not be applicable in this case. 

The HC observed that the ground in question is under the Hubballi-Dharwad City Corporation and the petitioner (a local Muslim organisation called Anjuman-e-Islam) is a licensee who is allowed to use the ground on two occasions — Ramzan and Eid. The court said that the ground in question is used for regular activities including parking vehicles, and is not a place of worship. 

The court was hearing a plea challenging the permission granted to hold Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations at the Eidgah maidan. The petitioners had submitted that by allowing the Ganesh pandal to be erected in the maidan, the Municipal Commissioner was “trying to convert the place of worship”. However, the corporation has maintained in court that the petitioner does not own the property, and as per the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, the corporation is allowed to use the property temporarily. 

The Hubballi-Dharwad City Corporation (HDMC) had passed an order allowing Ganesha celebrations for three days in the city's Eidgah Maidan, prompting celebrations by Hindu activists, who have been demanding the installation of a Ganesha idol at the maidan. Six Hindu organisations had sought permission to install a Ganesha idol and one of them had been permitted by the HDMC. 

A House Committee panel was constituted to look into the issue and objections were raised by Congress members of the committee. The panel’s decision was submitted to the Hubballi-Dharwad Mayor Iresh Anchatageri on Monday evening. The Mayor consulted the elected representatives of the district and announced on Monday evening that permission to instal the idol has been given. Security was heightened in the area, as the district has seen violence over the issue in the past. In 1994, five persons were killed and hundreds injured in Hubballi police firing when they tried to hoist the national flag at the maidan. 

Earlier, Justice Kinagi had allowed Dharwad Municipal Commissioner to consider applications by Hindu organisations to install Ganesh idols at the Idgah maidan. Justice Kinagi cited the order of the division bench of the Karnataka High Court, which on August 26, had left it to the state government to consider the use of the Eidgah maidan in Bengaluru’s Chamarajapet, where a similar dispute was underway. “Considering the order passed by the Division Bench, the Commissioner is permitted to consider the applications received by him for installation of Ganesha Idol, holding religious and cultural activities in the property in question for a limited period and pass appropriate order in accordance with law,” Justice Kinagi said earlier on Tuesday. 

The HC had also asked the petitioners, who had appealed against the installation, to approach the court based on what the Supreme Court holds in the Chamarajapet Eidgah case. Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered status quo at the Eidgah maidan in Bengaluru’s Chamarajpet, thereby disallowing Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations at the contested ground. 

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