Observing that Good Friday was observed by all communities and Easter eggs and chocolates enjoyed by all, the Bombay High Court on Monday directed that the day be declared as an official public holiday in the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
A bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice NM Jamdar directed the administration of the two Union Territories (UTs) to declare Friday, April 19, a public holiday. The administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu had earlier issued a notification marking Good Friday as an optional holiday at government offices.
The Christian community from the Union Territories approached the High Court earlier this month with a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the notification.
Their counsel Harish Jagtiani argued that while the Christian population in these Union Territories accounted for just 2 per cent of the total population, the "principles of secularism" mandated that one consider the "sentiments of the minority community and not the numbers".
The petitioners said in the plea that this was the "first instance" in the history of Union Territories that Good Friday had not been notified as a public holiday.
"Ever since these territories came under the Indian Union, it (Good Friday) has always been declared as a public holiday considering that many Christians are living in far flung areas of these Union Territories," the plea read.
Advocate SS Deshmukh, who appeared for the administration of the Union Territories, told the court that the central government rules permitted the administrator to notify a total of 17 days in the year as public holidays.
Such list had already been exhausted and hence, Good Friday had been declared as an optional holiday instead of a gazetted public holiday this year, Advocate Deshmukh said.
The bench, however, noted that people of “all castes, communities, and creed” commemorated Good Friday and celebrated Easter and Christmas. Keeping in mind the sentiments of the Christian community, Good Friday must be declared a public holiday, it noted.
“Christmas is celebrated with much bonhomie by all communities. People of all castes, creed and communities observe Good Friday... And chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs are eaten and enjoyed by all," the bench said.
"Considering the importance of Good Friday for the community (Christians), the administrator to declare it as a public holiday," it said while disposing of the petition. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is followed by the celebration of Easter Sunday, commemorating the resurrection of Christ.