The Supreme Court on Friday provided the Uttar Pradesh government time till Monday to reconsider its decision to hold Kanwar Yatra amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It also added that it would be forced to pass an order if the state government fails to reconsider its decision. Notably, the neighbouring Uttarakhand has already cancelled the Kanwar Yatra.
While asking the Uttar Pradesh government to inform the court of its decision by Monday, the apex court said, “This pandemic affects all of us. The health of citizens of India and the right to life is paramount and all other sentiments whether being religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right.”
“We can give you one more opportunity to consider holding yatra physically at all. This or else we pass an order. We are all Indians and this suo motu has been taken up as Article 21 applies to all of us. Either you reconsider to have it at all or we deliver,” the bench said.
What Centre said
Taking a practical stand owing to the larger threat of a third wave of the pandemic, the Centre has submitted to the Supreme Court that states shall not permit Kanwar Yatra to Uttarakhand’s Haridwar. The Union government in an affidavit said state governments should develop a system to provide Gangajal to devotees at nearby temples.
The Centre’s affidavit reads, “The state governments must also ensure that this exercise of distribution of Gangajal amongst devotees and the rituals to be performed by such devotees in the nearby Shiv temples takes place mandatorily, ensuring social distancing, wearing of masks and adherence to all steps required for Covid-appropriate behaviour and Covid health protocols.”
The Supreme Court had initiated a suo motu proceeding in the matter on Wednesday. A division bench of Justice RF Nariman and Justice BR Gavai had said the citizens were completely baffled by the decision of the state government to allow the yatra at a time when medical experts and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have warned against large gatherings and people not following COVID-appropriate behaviour.
A notice was also issued to the Centre and Uttar Pradesh governments in this regard. The Kanwar Yatra is scheduled to begin on July 25.
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