COVID-19: HC Asks SASB, Govt To Take Decision On Amarnath Yatra

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SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday directed Amarnath Shrine Board and the government to take a decision on the annual Hindu pilgrimage to cave shrine by taking into consideration among others health of every person including pilgrims, security personnel and locals amid novel coronavirus pandemic.

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“The Amarnath Shrine Board and the respondents (government) shall urgently take all decisions regarding the Yatra while complying with the order dated 13th July 2020 in WP(C) No.623/2020 of the Supreme Court of India taking into consideration all the relevant issues as also the several concerns pointed out by the applicant, amicus curiae and the respondents before us,” a bench of Chie Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanja Dhar.

“Such considered view shall ensure compliance of all healthcare protocols, Standard Operating Protocols notified by the Central Government as well as by the Jammu & Kashmir guided by the principles laid down by the Supreme Court of India that the right to health of every person has to be placed at the highest pedestal; address the concerns of the health of the security personnel, healthcare personnel, priests, the Yatris and of the officials who would be involved in the arrangements and conduct of the Yatra as also the residents of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir.”

In the decision making, the Board shall ensure consideration of the welfare and support of all persons, especially the members of the communities “who provide the porterage/ pithoos, palkis; mules and horses and who provide services on the Yatra”, the court said. “Consideration would also need to be accorded to the welfare of the animals (mules, horses, ponies etc.) involved in the Yatra and measures needed for the same,” the court added, according to news agency GNS.

As per the Hindu religious belief, the ice stalagmite in the Amarnath Cave, which reaches a height of over 130 ft, is worshipped as Shiva Lingam.

The court observed that the pilgrimage from either Pahalgam or Ganderbal side is not easy and requires extensive facilitation by both the government and Non-State Organizations. “While the J&K is engaged in ensuring proper passage, security, medical facilities, setting up of points of stay, lodging, toilets etc, it is also responsible for ensuring a continuous supply of power and telecommunication facilities at or near the Shrine.”

The application was filed by Sachin Sharma, Advocate practising in the Jammu Wing of the High Court. He expressed deep reservation and anxiety about the health and well being of the yatris and the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir in case Amarnath Yatra was permitted to be held this year account of current COVID-19 pandemic.

Sharma reported that the pilgrimage for this year was scheduled to begin on the June 23 this year (Skandshasthi) and to continue till 3rd August 2020 (Shravan Purnima).

He informed that on account of the current Corona Virus Pandemic, the authorities have taken a decision to commence the Yatra from July 21 for the shorter period of 14 days.

He expressed grave concern about the commencement of the Yatra, pointing out that on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, no labour was available to facilitate or assist the administration for removal of snow or for making the necessary arrangements. He cited figures of the COVID-19 infected and those relating to its spread; the mortalities in different countries.

On account of lack of preparedness and the apprehended inability of the authorities to deal with the requirements of COVID-19 infection on the Yatra, especially the quarantine and treatment facilities which would be required, he said that Yatra is prohibited.(GNS)

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