May 2019

Recently, the Bombay High Court reinstated Good Friday as a gazetted holiday and overturned the decision of the administration of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli which had relegated it to a restricted holiday. The arbitrary action of the administration was a major departure from a 72-year old practice.

The High Court took into the consideration the importance of Good Friday which has been declared as a gazetted holiday by the Central Government and most of the State Governments. 

The Court was given to understand that the administration's decision was based on the fact that the population of members of the Christian community in the area in question is miniscule. Whereas, the Court observed, "Suffice it to state that the number of the members of a community should ordinarily not be the guiding factor in a multi-plural society. Christmas is celebrated with fervor by all and leads to integration of the nation. We find members of the society across caste, creed and religion celebrate Christmas. Similarly, the Easter eggs, the chocolate bunny and the Easter sweets are awaited by all and sundry across the country."

Here are some important implications of the reasoning adopted by the Court:

  • Firstly, it stresses on the inviolable secular character of our nation. The Constitution in letter and spirit gives each religion due credence and weight in the national scheme of things and the miniscule membership of a community would not and should not affect how its customs and traditions are treated by the rest of the population.
  • Holidays which have gained public importance by usage and practice, whether religious or cultural, help significantly towards integrating the nation. They become occasions for Indians of all hues and stripes to come together. They may not be trifled with as they stand on a completely different footing than leaves that an employee may ordinarily opt for, as in the case of a Restricted Holiday.
  • Finally, if the argument of the State is turned on its head, it may be said that because the number of members of the Christian community are less in the Union Territories and in the country as a whole, it becomes all the more important to protect traditions sacrosanct to that community so as to allow them to thrive in the diverse democracy that India is.