Updated: September 16, 2021 8:54:33 pm
The Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday lifted its stay on the Char Dham Yatra, allowing the state government to hold the pilgrimage under a strict Covid-19 protocol. Removing the ban on the yatra, a high court division bench comprising Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma said the pilgrimage will start with certain restrictions.
What are the standard operating procedures (SOPs) specified by the court for Char Dham Yatra?
# The Uttarakhand High Court has put a daily limit on the number of devotees visiting the temples: the number is 800 for Kedarnath Dham, 1,000 for Badrinath Dham, 600 for Gangotri and 400 for Yamunotri
# Carrying a negative report of Covid-19 test will be mandatory for all the visitors embarking on the Char Dham Yatra.
# Pilgrims will also need to carry a Covid vaccination certificate for travelling to the holy sites.
# No one will be allowed to take a bath in any of the springs around the temples, said the court.
# Police force will be deployed as per requirement during the Char Dham Yatra in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi districts.
What was the case before the HC?
The Uttarakhand state cabinet had plans to open up the pilgrimage in a phased manner for the pilgrims from outside the state depending on the Covid-19 situation.
However, the Uttarakhand High Court on June 28 put a stay on the Char Dham Yatra till further orders, while hearing public interest litigations (PIL) related to spike in Covid-19 cases, lack of health facilities and other factors.
The state government had filed a special leave petition (SLP) against this order in the Supreme Court. However, this could not be heard. Advocate General SN Babulkar and CSC Chandrashekhar Rawat had recently requested a high court bench headed by Chief Justice RS Chauhan to vacate the ban on travel. However, the court refused to hear it citing that the matter was still pending in the apex court.
The state recently withdrew its SLP in the Supreme Court, paving the way for the high court to hear its plea.
What were state govt’s arguments while seeking lift of ban on Char Dham Yatra?
Appearing for the state government, Advocate General SN Babulkar and Chief Standing Advocate CS Rawat demanded that the ban be removed to restore the livelihood of the local people, including travel agents and priests.
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The advocate general said Char Dham Yatra has an earning period and many families will suffer huge losses if the season passes without any footfall of the pilgrims.
The advocate general pleaded that the initial concern of the court while imposing the ban has been addressed and there has been a significant improvement in healthcare services in the state.
The government also assured the court that there will be strict adherence to Covid guidelines during the Yatra.
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