On 30 August 2022, the Supreme Court refused to permit Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at Bengaluru's Idgah Maidan, ordering that the status quo be maintained. Meanwhile, in a late-night hearing on the same day, the Karnataka High Court gave the go-ahead to install a Ganesh idol at Hubbali's Idgah Maidan.
While the police have increased security around Bengaluru's Idgah Maidan to prevent any religious activity, the Idgah Maidan in North Karnataka's Hubballi is witnessing a three-day celebration. In addition to performing traditional rituals at the maidan, Vedic Samhityas were chanted and photographs of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and VD Savarkar were placed near the Ganesh idol.
The two contrasting court orders on the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi at the two separate Idgah Maidans in Karnataka have surprised many. It is, however, important to note that the courts have pronounced their orders by assessing the two cases as issues of land ownership.
So, how are the two cases different?
Supreme Court Says No to Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations at Bengaluru's Idgah Maidan
On 25 August, the Waqf Board, which has claimed the rights to the 2.1-acre land in Chamarajapet, moved the Karnataka High Court, leading to a single-judge order restricting the use of the Idgah Maidan to Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations by the state government, and Ramzan and Bakrid by Muslims for prayers.
This order was further challenged by the state government before a two-judge bench, which then ordered that religious and cultural activities be permitted starting 31 August.
However, the Waqf Board moved the three-judge bench in the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Indira Banerjee, Abhay S Oka, and MM Sundresh, which heard the matter of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in the 2.1-acre land of Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru's Chamarajapet, and directed 'status quo', disallowing Hindu groups from holding prayers.
Questioning the petitioners, Justice Banerjee said, "Why not have status quo? You can hold the pooja (ceremony and prayers) elsewhere." The apex court also said in its order that the writ petition over the ownership of the land was still pending before the Karnataka High Court, and that in the meantime, the status quo must be maintained till the matter is heard again on 23 September 2022.
Based on the directive by the Supreme Court, no organisation was allowed to hold Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Bengaluru's Idgah Maidan.
Karnataka HC Allows Celebrations at Hubballi Idgah Maidan
On the other hand, in the Karnataka High Court, the single-bench judge hearing the petition of Anjuman E Islam, which opposed the order passed by the Hubballi-Dharward Municipal Corporation, ruled that there was no land dispute over the Idgah Maidan in Hubballi and that the sole owner of the property was the city's municipal corporation.
The court said, "It (Idgah Maidan) is not in dispute and the property belongs to respondents (HDMC). Said property is allotted on lease to the petitioner (Anjuman E Islam) for 999 years."
The high court, which ruled that the "facts in Hubballi" were different from the case in Bengaluru, added that the trust, Anjuman E Islam, was not entitled to the benefit passed by the Supreme Court's three-judge bench in the Bengaluru case.
The court also added that Muslims only had the right to conduct namaz for two festival days, namely Ramzaan and Bakrid, and dismissed the plea to stop Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at Idgah ground at Hubbali-Dharwad.