Bombay High Court declares Good Friday a public holiday in two Union Territories

Written by SabrangIndia | Published on: April 17, 2019
On Monday, April 15, the Bombay High Court directed that Good Friday be declared an official public holiday in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu this year. The order was passed after a public interest litigation was filed by Anthony Francisco Duarte, seeking that that two Union Territories’ administrations declare Good Friday a public holiday, as done by other states and Union Territories. Per NDTV, "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."

Bombay High Court

"Ever since these territories came under the Indian Union, [Good Friday] has always been declared as a public holiday considering that many Christians are residing in far-flung areas of these UTs," Duarte’s plea stated, per The Hindu. 

Advocate SS Deshmukh, who argued on behalf of the two Union Territories’ (UTs) administrations, said that since 1984, the Home Ministry has sanctioned three mandatory holidays for UTs, Republic Day, Gandhi Jayanti, and Independence Day, as well as an additional holiday for liberation day on August 2 (Dadra and Nagar Haveli) and December 19 (Daman and Diu), The Hindu reported. He said that per central government rules, the administrators can declare a total of 17 public holidays per year, NDTV noted, adding that Deshmukh said that since this list has been exhausted, Good Friday was was declared an option holiday instead of a gazetted public holiday this year. Deshmukh also mentioned that the Christian population is under 2%.

However, senior counsel Harish Jagtiani, who represented Duarte, argued that "the 'sentiments of the minority community and not the numbers' need to be considered," The Hindu noted.

The Bench, comprising Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice NM Jamdar sided with Duarte, stating, "Christmas is celebrated with much bonhomie by all communities. People of all castes, creed and communities commemorate Good Friday... And chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs are eaten and enjoyed by all. Considering the importance of Good Friday for the [Christian] community, the administrator [is directed] to declare it as a public holiday," The Hindu reported.

"We are grateful for the HC’s timely intervention in dispensing justice to the Christian community, failing which it would have opened floodgates of other states also cancelling the Good Friday holiday. This court order will act as a deterrent in case other states have such dubious plans in mind," said Dr. Abraham Mathai, former vice chairman of the Minorities Commission to the Times of India. Mathai is currently the president of Indian Christian Voice, and advisor to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). 

The court order may be read here: