Telangana government breathes easy as Supreme Court allows symbolic immersion of Ganesha idols in Hussainsagar lake

Published : September 17, 2021 11:58 IST

Devotees purchasing Ganesha idols, including those made of Plaster of Paris, for immersion in Hussain Sagar, on September 9. Photo: NAGARA GOPAL

In a major relief to the Telangana government, the Supreme Court on September 16 allowed the immersion of Ganesha idols made from Plaster of Paris (PoP) in Hyderabad’s Hussainsagar lake for “one last time” during this year’s Vinayaka Chaturthi celebrations. The government had declared that the immersion celebrations will take place on September 18.

Hearing a petition filed by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) challenging the September 9 orders passed by the Telangana High Court banning the immersion of Ganesha idols made of PoP in the lake, a three-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana passed the order after an undertaking was given by the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Telangana, that there would be no immersion of PoP idols from next year.

The GHMC contended that the well-intentioned but unexpected ban on the immersion of PoP Ganesha idols by the Telangana High Court would hit thousands of artisans hard. Pointing out that preparations for the festival had begun in March, the GHMC petition stated that “the directions issued by the High Court at this point of time would cause huge public outcry and also lead to administrative difficulties”.

Making it amply clear that it was not supporting the government by staying the High Court order, the court said the immersion, despite well-founded fears of the lake waters being polluted, was a recurrent problem and that the government ought to have prohibited the immersion of PoP idols on its own.

The bench remarked: “Let them do symbolic immersion this year. A last chance for them. They say they will ensure no harm is caused to the pond.”

Stressing that “this is the last time”, CJI Ramana directed the Telangana government to state its assurance in an affidavit before the court. Asked the CJI: “Once upon a time, the water in the lake was used for drinking. That time passed long ago. Now, I believe, a lot of money was spent on beautification.... If the water is polluted again, won’t it be a waste of the money spent on the beautification?”

The bench directed that the Ganesha idols should not be left in the lake after immersion, but taken out immediately. The Solicitor General submitted to the court that the government had deployed cranes that would remove the immersed idols from the lake and transport them to solid waste dumping sites. Stated the GHMC petition: “The idols will be removed within 24 hours of immersion. They will be transported to solid waste dumping sites. The GHMC has also created 25 baby ponds, and, also distributed 50,000 small environment-friendly clay Ganesha idols….”