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Rising Covid Cases: Calcutta HC tells state govt to consider cancelling Gangasagar Mela

🔴 The bench said that the state government while taking a decision, should keep in view an earlier order of this court holding that life is more important in every sense in comparison to religious practices, beliefs and faith.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
January 6, 2022 5:04:37 am
kolkata covid casesAt the transit camp for the Gangasagar Mela at Babughat on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday asked the West Bengal government to consider cancelling the Gangasagar Mela this year owing to the severity of the spread of Covid-19 cases.

The state said it will inform the court of its decision on Thursday.

Hearing a PIL seeking a ban on the Mela amid a surge in Covid-19 infections, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Kesang Doma Bhutia in its order said: “Having regard to the severity of spreading of COVID virus, we expect that the State will seriously consider the plea to ban the Mela this year and take a decision in this regard.”

The bench said that the state government while taking a decision, should keep in view an earlier order of this court holding that life is more important in every sense in comparison to religious practices, beliefs and faith.

“The State will duly take into account the positivity rate of virus and fact that within the last 24 hours there is 50 per cent increase in the number of cases and also the fact that a large number of doctors are already infected,” the court said in its order.

Abhinandan Mandal, a doctor, had filed a public interest litigation in the High Court seeking cancellation of the Gangasagar Mela this year. Sreejib Chakraborty, the advocate representing the petitioner, told the court that while 18-20 lakh people visit Gangasagar Mela every year, the footfall fell to 6 lakh pilgrims last year due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation.

He added that the state government had recently issued guidelines that not more than 50 people could congregate at any religious function. With Gangasagar Mela also being a religious event, how was it being allowed, Chakraborty argued.

He added that with the case positivity rate in the state increasing over the last few days, the state government should clarify whether the pilgrimage fair should go ahead as scheduled this year.

In this context, the lawyer for the petitioner invoked the verdict of the Uttarakhand High Court with regard to the Char Dham Yatra this year. Considering the Covid situation, the Uttarakhand High Court had ordered the cancellation of the Char Dham Yatra in June last year.

The Chief Justice then asked the Advocate General if the state was thinking about organising the Gangasagar Mela.
To this, the AG said the state will inform the court in detail about the measures being taken to ensure the safety of pilgrims at the fair this year.

The bench is scheduled to hear the matter on Thursday.

Seers and pilgrims have already started arriving for the annual prilgrimage fair in the Sagar Island.

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