Start Widening of Amarnath Track: SC to State Govt.

KL Report

October 16, 2012

The recommendations of the Special High Powered Committee (SHPC), which had been constituted by the Supreme Court to address the woes of the Amarnath pilgrims, shall serve as beacon light for the forthcoming Yatras and the StateGovernment will make arrangements in consonance with that report.

These directions have been issued by the Apex Court Bench comprising Justice B S Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar after going through the detailed affidavit submitted by the Special Secretary, Tourism and Cultural Department, Anal Kumar Gupta on behalf of the State Government.

The Court also directed the Chief Secretary and the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) to immediately make planning in relation to providing all medical facilities, registration and other ancillary works, including deployment of forces and ensuring one way passage at the Shrine during the next yatra.

“This planning should be done in conformity with the recommendations made by the SHPC and a tentative plan should be placed before the Court on the next date of hearing”, said the Bench.

Earlier, the State through its counsel submitted before the Bench that it would ensure strict compliance of all the recommendations of the SHPC. The State Cabinet under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah had recently endorsed all these recommendations.

The Division Bench, while appreciating the State Government, said, “We are happy to note that the State has, in principle accepted all the recommendations made by the Special High Powered Committee and even ensure their compliance subject to other statutory clearances as prevalent in the State”.

Responding to the woes of pilgrims, the Court categorically stated that the matter pertaining to the pilgrimage need to be viewed in two different perspectives – long-term perspective and short-terms perspective.

“Under the long-term perspective, the purpose is to ensure commencement and earliest completion of the work before, or in any case, simultaneously, with the commencement of the next yatra. The short-term perspectives are the ones which the Government and the Shrine Board should proceed forthwith”, the order stated.

“Jammu and Kashmir State in coordination with the Shrine Board should ensure due facilities and conveniences and regulated yatra with due regard to the need for healthcare facilities. All the learned counsels appearing for the parties were having mutual agreement on the issue”, the order added.

The Bench also passed some interim directions before taking up the matter for final disposal and passing of the detailed judgment covering the entire spectrum of the yatra and its various aspects, right from registration to return of the yatris, healthcare, waste disposal and providing of basic necessities during the period of yatra.

The Court directed that the State Government in consonance with the Shrine Board commence forthwith some development works, which could be executed before it becomes further more difficult for executing any work at Baltal or surrounding areas.

These developmental activities included widening of passage from Baltal to shrine and setting up of the Sewage system of Baltal.

“The State Government, its departments and all the development authorities shall ensure full cooperation and expeditiously grant such permissions as may be necessary to execute these works at the earliest”.

Advocate General, M I Qadri, who appeared on behalf of the State Government assured full cooperation to the Court and stated that the State would take full responsibility for execution for the works through the Shrine Board.

Regarding the request made by private parties (Piramal Healthcare and Shiv Sewa Samit), the Court stated that the applicants should approach the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), if they wish to tender any assistance, financial or otherwise including technical know-how or health care. “The SASB shall consider the requests and make a report to the Court on the next date of hearing”, said the Bench.

The next date of hearing before the Apex Court has been fixed on November 21.The Apex Court had on July 20 this year constituted a high-level committee to recommend measures to prevent the growing number of casualties among Amarnath pilgrims saying it has become a permanent problem and a regular affair.

The Court had passed the order after taking suo motu note of media reports of pilgrims’ deaths allegedly due to lack of proper facilities and medical care for them.

The committee comprises secretaries of various departments including those from the ministries of Environment and Forest, the Home Affairs and the Health and Family Welfare, besides the Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary.
The Court had asked the Committee to visit the shrine and give the report to Jammu and Kashmir Governor who is also the Chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, responsible for holding the annual Amarnath pilgrimage.

The Apex Court had also ordered that the Committee would include Directors General of State police, paramilitary forces — CRPF and BSF and the Border Road Organization, besides the CEO of Sri Amarnath Shrine Board and an environmentalist, to be nominated by the Jammu and Kashmir Governor.

The Committee was to examine and report on various issues, which include widening of passage, checking pilgrims’ health, improving medical facilities for them, deployment of adequate security personnel and assessing environment impact, the court had said.

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