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Uttarakhand High Court Lifts Stay On Char Dham Yatra, Issues Several Directions To Authorities

Sparsh Upadhyay
17 Sep 2021 8:42 AM GMT
Uttarakhand High Court Lifts Stay On Char Dham Yatra, Issues Several Directions To Authorities
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Vacating its order staying the state Cabinet's decision to allow Char Dham Yatra, the Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday gave its nod to the Yatra while directing the state government to ensure that COVID protocols are adhered to during the Yatra. The Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma was hearing an application moved by the state government...

Vacating its order staying the state Cabinet's decision to allow Char Dham Yatra, the Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday gave its nod to the Yatra while directing the state government to ensure that COVID protocols are adhered to during the Yatra.

The Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma was hearing an application moved by the state government and directed the State to ensure that testing facilities are available for those who may reveal any symptom of COVID-19.

The Court also underscored that there has been a constant decline in the COVID-19 cases, both within the State, and in the nation and that so far, there is no indication that the third wave is about to spread right through the country.

The Court took into account the fact that the majority of population from 18 years onwards has been given the first dose in the state and as far as the second dose is concerned, in the age group of 45 years and above, in District Chamoli 81.0%, in District Rudraprayag 59.09%, and in District Uttarkashi 74.9% population has been inoculated.

However, noting that it is imperative that the vaccination for the second dose (in the age group of 18-44 years) be increased phenomenally in these three districts by the State, the Court observed thus:

"It is, indeed, disconcerting that the people in the age group of 18-44 years, the majority of them have yet to be inoculated with the second dose. For, according to the data available, in District Chamoli the percentage of the population is as low as 16.9%, in District Rudraprayag it is 22.6%, and in District Uttarkashi it is 19.3%. Therefore, the second dozes have to be increased in these three districts in order to ensure that the local population is completely fortified against the Coronavirus. Considering the fact that if pilgrims from outside the State are permitted to mingle with the local population, obviously, it is the local population that would have to face the danger of contracting the disease."

Directions issued by the Court to the state government

  • Enhance the medical facilities, if necessary, and to ensure that at least, beds with ventilators are available.
  • Ensure that in the registration online portal, the helpline number for the availability of such helicopter is indicated, the person who needs to be contacted for availing such facilities is readily available.
  • Sufficient information should be given to the pilgrims coming in about the availability of the medical facilities, 18 the numbers of beds available, and the fact that the helicopter would be available if the urgency so arises.
  • The essential information should be displayed publicly and should be conveyed to the pilgrims through electronic and print media. This information should also be available at the control room(s) established by the State at each of the Char Dham locations.
  • District Magistrates to ensure that essential and necessary public facilities are, indeed, provided to the pilgrims, both on route and at Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamnotri.
  • District Magistrates to consider those Local Self-Help Groups and the NGOs with whom they would like to work.
  • The Police department is directed to ensure that strict penal action is taken against those persons who violate either the SOP, or the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, or the provisions of the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting Act, 2016.
  • The Secretary, District Legal Services Authority of these three districts Chamoli, Rudraprayag, and Uttarkashi are directed to monitor the facilities available to the pilgrims, and the supervision is carried out by the Civil Administration of the districts, and to submit their reports on a weekly basis before this Court.
  • It is essential to reduce the number of pilgrims visiting Badrinath temple from 1,200 to 1,000 per day.

With these directions, the stay order dated June 28, 2021, passed by the Court was vacated in which the Uttarakhand High Court had stayed the decision of the Uttarakhand State Cabinet to hold Chardham Yatra by taking a prima facie view that the decision is arbitrary and unreasonable and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Further, on 28 July, the Uttarakhand High Court had extended its order staying State Government's decision to hold Char Dham Yatra.

Importantly, the government had earlier filed a special leave petition (SLP) challenging the June 28 Order of the High Court, however, last month, withdrew the SLP and filed an interim application in the High Court for recalling the stay order.

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