Monday, 13 Jul, 7.20 pm Deccan Herald

Supreme Court refuses to consider plea for restricting Shri Amarnath Yatra 2020

Ashish Tripathi,

The Supreme Court on Monday refused consider a plea to restrict the access of the general public, devotees and pilgrims for the Shri Amarnath Yatra 2020, in view of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph said: "we cannot enter into arena of local and district administration". The matter whether to allow Shri Amarnath Yatra should be better left for the administration to decide, the bench added.

Senior advocate Devadatt Kamat and advocate Rajesh Inamdar, appearing for Shri Amarnath Barfani Langars Organisation and its general secretary Rajan Gupta, cited instance of Shri Jagannath Rath Yatra. They contended that the right to practice religion must yield to larger public health concerns. They said they have sent several representations to the government but there was no response. The Yatra was being allowed despite guidelines against it.

The petitioners sought a direction to the Union government and Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and others to provide for live darshan of the Lord Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine by way of the internet and the television, so that there can be access to crores of people across the country.

They said the court should ask what precautions were taken to check spread of Covid-19.

The petitioners cited the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines which stated there cannot be more than 50 people attending a marriage ceremony, and 20 people in a funeral.

"This is primarily done to ensure that the outbreak of the pandemic is not furthered. Even applying these standards, the petitioners seek restrictions to be imposed, and close the Yatra for devotees and pilgrims," the petition drawn filed by advocates Amit Pai, Rahat Bansal and Rajesh Inamdar stated.

More so, they said, in the absence of proper transportation and lodging facilities, such pilgrims and devotees will be put to great hardship.

It would be impossible to implement the norms of social distancing at the Base Camps, Access Control Gates or the Holy Cave, due to heavy volume of pilgrims, the petitioners said.

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