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Uttar Pradesh call to allow Kanwar Yatra disturbing, respond by tomorrow, says Supreme Court

Taking up the matter, Justice Nariman told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta “we read something disturbing in The Indian Express today that the state of UP has chosen to continue with the Kanwar yatra, while the state of Uttarakhand with its hindsight of experience, has said that there will be no Yatra…"

Delhi cancels Kanwar yatraThe Yatra is a pilgrimage scheduled in the Hindu calendar month of Shravana (Saavan).(File Photo)

Taking suo motu cognisance of a report in The Indian Express on the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra which has been suspended by neighbouring Uttarakhand amid fears of a possible third Covid-19 wave, the Supreme Court Wednesday sought responses by Friday from the Centre and the governments of UP and Uttarakhand.

Issuing notices, the bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai said: “We were a little disturbed given today’s headline in the ‘Indian Express’ of 14.07.2021 about the ‘Kanwar Yatra’, which is likely to be held from 25.07.2021.”

Taking up the matter, Justice Nariman told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta: “We read something disturbing in The Indian Express today that the state of UP has chosen to continue with the Kanwar Yatra, while the state of Uttarakhand with its hindsight of experience, has said that there will be no Yatra… Citizens of India are completely perplexed and don’t know what is going on. And all this amid the Prime Minister, when asked about a third wave of Covid striking the nation, saying ‘we cannot compromise even one bit’.”

It said “the headline just above this headline speaks about the Prime Minister’s statement when he met the North-Eastern Chief Ministers that when people ask about the third wave of the Covid-19 virus striking the citizenry of India, it’s up to us to stop it and we cannot compromise ‘even a bit’.”

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The bench said “given the disparate political voices, all speaking at the same time, it is important that the relevant Secretary, Union of India, respond to this news report”.

It fixed July 16 for the matter to be heard next, pointing out that “it is necessary to fix a short time period for this case” as the Yatra is set to take off from July 25.

It directed that affidavits be filed by July 16, “responding to the aforesaid news article by the relevant Secretary, Union of India; Principal Secretary to the State of Uttarakhand; and Principal Secretary to the State of Uttar Pradesh”.

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The order quoted The Indian Express report which stated that Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami told reporters Tuesday: “We decided to cancel the yatra, according topmost priority to human life… A lot of discussions were held on the issue over the last few days. Our officials held talks with neighbouring states. The outcome of this exercise is that in view of the pandemic and with a new variant being detected in the state, we do not want Haridwar to be the centre of the pandemic… People’s lives are our priority. We can’t play with that… we won’t take any chances.”

Uttarakhand’s decision to suspend the yatra, the report stated, came even as the administration in UP started preparing for the yatra — “with restrictions”.

The report quoted UP Additional Director General (ADG) Law and Order, Prashant Kumar, saying that this year, the yatra will be held from July 25 to August 6.

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Officials said that in 2019, the last time the yatra was organised, nearly 3.5 crore devotees (kanwariyas) had visited Haridwar while over 2-3 crore people had visited pilgrimage spots in western UP.

First published on: 15-07-2021 at 01:00:53 am
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