Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Division Bench of Gita Mittal, CJ, and Sanjay Dhar, J., refused to entertain an application which sought the cancellation of the annual Amarnath Yatra this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving the matter to be decided by Amarnath Shrine Board.

The present application had been filed by an advocate of the J&K High Court, who pleaded for the prohibition of the Yatra this year, considering the lack of preparedness and the apparent inability of the authorities to tackle any possible Covid-19 cases during the pilgrimage, especially with respect to quarantine and treatment facilities.

The respondents’ contended that the Amarnath Yatra can be allowed in a “restrictive manner,” and that the same was under the consideration of the government.

While cited the decision of Supreme Court in Odisha Vikash Parishad v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 533 with regard to  allowing the Jagannath Yatra this year, stated that it would not hold ground, considering the Jagannath Yatra is a single-day event while the Amarnath Yatra continues over a period of time. Moreover, problems unique to Amarnath, such as “security, fragility of the facilities, vulnerabilities on account of geographical and topography features did not arise in Odisha.”

In a similar case seeking the cancellation of the Yatra this year, the Supreme Court on 13th July, 2020 in Shri Amarnath Barfani Langars Organisation v. Union of India WP(C) No. 623 of 2020 had refused to entertain the petition, holding itself jurisdictionally bound, since deciding whether the Yatra should take place or not must be left up to the executive arm of the state, particularly the local administration.

High Court, following the above, ordered the respondents to ensure that all relevant material, including copies of this order, be immediately placed before the Amarnath Shrine Board for its consideration.

Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and respondents shall urgently take all decisions while complying with the Supreme Court’s decision dated 13th July, 2020, 

The High Court specified that if the Board’s decision is contrary to the spirit of the Supreme Court’s decision dated 13th July, the applicant will be free to invoke any appropriate remedy in accordance with the law.[Court on its own motion v. UT of J&K, 2020 SCC OnLine J&K 353  , decided on 14-07-2020]

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