The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to share its policy for declaring public holidays. The observation was made by the top court during hearing of a plea by Sikh organisation All India Shiromani Singh Sabha seeking uniform and non-arbitrary policy for declaring public holidays, contrary to whims and fancies of various political groups.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran queried Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, "The petition is raising question, there are no guidelines for declaring public holidays. Tell us what is your policy. This is something every institution has to ask."
Mehta submitted that he will get back to the top court in the matter.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing All India Shiromani Singh Sabha, urged the bench to issue notice in the matter. "Issue notice returnable after 10 days," said the top court in its order.
The plea, filed through advocate Durga Dutt, sought promotion and development of Sikh religious and cultural ethos. The plea said the important birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh who is a religious icon for the Sikh community, so far has not been declared a public holiday across the country which has deeply aggrieved the Sikh organisation.
The petitioner contended that the birth anniversary of the tenth Sikh Guru should be allowed to be celebrated as 'Prakash Parv' throughout the country to instil a sense of patriotism, nationalism and brotherhood among the people.
"The petitioner submits that such a recognition by way of declaration of gazette/public holiday would foster the spirit of unity, integrity and fraternity among the people of India and inspire the general populace to follow the high ideals of patriotism, nationalism and brotherhood among the people," said the plea, citing that Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world with 25.8 million followers.
The petitioner said Guru Gobind Singh stood against injustice and his teachings transcend time and will remain relevant in all times to come. The petitioner also cited the casual response of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, on its representation, saying that at present there is no proposal for declaring 'Prakash Parv' as a gazetted public holiday.
The organisation has made the Centre as well as all state governments and Union Territories as parties to the plea. The plea argued that holidays in countries like New Zealand, UK and USA, are governed by legislation. However, in India there is no Public Holidays Act, except the Weekly Holidays Act, 1942, which provided for weekly holidays. The petitioner contended that in most cases holidays were declared by the executive at the behest of political groups, which is usually to appease a particular section of society.