In the matter of Dhisha v Union of India & Ors. The Dhisha Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition alleging that the children chosen to perform in the theyyam Thee Chamundiare dance are thrown to embers at least 101 times, endangering their wellbeing and violating their most fundamental right to life. The Chamundi Theyyam is a traditional dance that is frequently performed in Kerala’s northern Malabar districts. The group filed an appeal with the Kerala High Court asking for the practice of including young audiences in Thee Chamundi Theyyam performances to be outlawed. In the northern Kerala region, theyyam is a traditional religious ritualistic practises.
When a 14-year-old child participated in a Thee Chamundi Theyyam put on by the Chirakkal Kovilakam and Chirakkal Temple Trust as part of their yearly function, the plea claimed the issue was brought to light. Because accidents and incidents during performances of the Thee Chamundi theyyam are a typical occurrence, there is a very high-risk component for the artists. In addition, the temple authorities guarantee that the artist will not receive any medical treatment, not even in an emergency. Children are used as entertainers in this scenario. The PIL said that the kids chosen to take part in the customary dance come from a poor neighbourhood and are a holdover from the feudal era. Choosing kids to perform is risky because it impacts their health and well-being, violates their fundamental rights, and goes against what is in their best interests. It was noted that if children are subjected to such harmful practices, they run the risk of suffering psychological harm in addition to bodily harm.
The NGO claimed that after making submissions to the pertinent authorities, including the Central and State governments, they never heard back. According to the PIL, parents or temple authorities cannot force their religious views on a kid if those beliefs have negative effects. It is essential for the Constitutional Court to intervene to protect the rights of the children using the parens patriae doctrine and issue the necessary directives to forbid the participation of children in Thee Chamundi Theyyam when parents fail to ensure the safety of the child and the State has miserably failed to protect the child’s interest.
The petitioner came before the court asking for an injunction banning the use of kids as dancers in the Thee Chamundi Theyam dance and a declaration stating that doing so is against kids’ fundamental rights.
Analysis of court decision
Justices Anil K. Narendran and Kauser Edappagath made up a division bench of the Kerala High Court, and they instructed the petitioner to name the Malabar Devaswom Board and the trustees of the temple where the dance performance is held. On May 22, the subject will be heard again.