Nikhil Kumaraswamy wedding
Nikhil Kumaraswamy wedding|Image Courtesy: Sakal Times
Litigation News

Can marriage function be attended by 80-90 people? Karnataka HC asks Centre, State on Nikhil Kumaraswamy wedding amid COVID-19 Lockdown

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Karnataka High Court yesterday asked the Central and state governments to clarify whether a marriage function attended by 80-90 persons can be held during the Coronavirus Lockdown.

The Court further asked the state government to clarify the number of Movement Passes granted for inter-district travel of guests who attended Nikhil Kumaraswamy's marriage function.

The above queries were posed by the Court while dealing with a petition questioning the breach of social distancing guidelines at the April 17 wedding ceremony of Nikhil Kumaraswamy, son of former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.

The order passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice BV Nagarathna reads,

"The Central Government and State Government will make categorical statements before the Court whether on 17th April, 2020, a marriage function could have been allowed to be officially held, by the Deputy Commissioner by granting permission to hold marriage ceremony which was to be attended by 80-90 persons. The State Government will also place on record how many Movement Passes for inter district travel of the vehicles were granted to enable the guests to attend the function held on 17th April, 2020."

Karnataka High Court

While passing the order, the Court noted that the permission granted by the Deputy Commissioner of Ramanagara District for the wedding did not impose a ceiling on the number of persons who could attend Nikhil Kumaraswamy's marriage ceremony.

Expressing its surprise at this fact, the Court held,

"Assuming that the District Magistrate had power to grant permission for holding of marriage ceremony on 17th April, 2020, we are surprised to note that he has omitted to mention in the purported permission any ceiling on number of guests attending the marriage function."

It was observed that the report furnished by the Sub Inspector of Police, Bidadi Police Station, indicated that 80-90 persons attended the wedding. The report also included that precautions such as thermal screening of guests were undertaken.

Relying on orders issued by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) pursuant to the COVID-19 lockdown, the state government contended that the District Magistrate was authorized to grant permission to hold marriages and funerals.

However, the Bench noted that MHA order dated May 1 specifically recorded that marriages related gatherings shall ensure social distancing, and maximum number of guests allowed shall not be more than 50.

On a concluding note, the Bench made it clear that its observations did not pertain exclusively to Kumaraswamy's wedding. It went on to warn the state government that permitting such functions would defeat the purpose of the nation-wide lockdown, now into its seventh week.

"We make it clear that we are not on one individual function already held on 17th April 2020. But we are on the question of State Government permitting such functions which prima facie will defeat the very object of imposing lockdown and introducing several prohibitions. If the policy of the Central Government and State Government is to permit holding of such marriage functions which can be attended by more than 50 persons, the Government must say so in writing so that all the citizens will be entitled to benefit of the said facility."

Karnataka High Court

The matter will be next heard on May 12.

[Read order here]

Karnataka HC - directions May 5.pdf
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