Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of Rohinton Fali Nariman and B.R. Gavai, JJ., had taken suo motu cognizance of the proposed Kanwar Yatra amid the pandemic in Uttar Pradesh. Considering the urgency of the matter, the Bench had marked the matter as “Most Urgent” in In Re Alarming Newspaper Report Regarding Kanwar Yatra in State Of U.P. The Bench remarked,

“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.”

Thus, the Court had taken Suo Moto cognizance of the newspaper report and had issued notice to the Union of India and the States of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to file their early response. The Newspaper Report headline states as follows:

“AMID FEARS of a possible third wave of Covid- 19, the Uttarakhand government on Tuesday suspended the kanwar yatra even as neighbouring Uttar Pradesh is pressing ahead with the annual ritual that sees a heavy movement of pilgrims across states in the northern belt. At a meeting on Tuesday with top officials of the administration and police, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami discussed apprehensions of a possible third wave of Covid-19, the recent detection of the Delta Plus variant in the state, and the experience of other countries that have witnessed a resurgence of covid cases. Sources said the government also sought the view of experts before arriving at the decision to cancel the yatra.

Uttarakhand’s decision to suspend the yatra comes even as the administration in UP has started preparing for the yatra – “with restrictions”. UP Additional Director General (ADG) Law and Order, Prashant Kumar, said that this year, the yatra will be held from July 25 to August 6. 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 3 pilgrimage spots in Western UP.”

Quoting 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 upto us to stop it and we cannot compromise “even a bit”, the Bench opined that given the disparate political voices, all speaking at the same time, it is important that the relevant Secretary, Union of India respond to the mentioned news report. Further, considering that the Yatra is to take off from 25-07-2021, the matter was listed on 16-07-2021 for further hearing.  The Uttar Pradesh government was directed to respond before next hearing.[Alarming Newspaper Report Regarding Kanwar Yatra in State Of U.P., In Re., SMW (C) No. 5 of 2021, decided on 14-07-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Appearance by:

For Union of India: Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General and B. V. Balram Das, Adv.

For State of Uttarakhand: Dr. Abhishek Atrey, Adv.

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