Char Dham Yatra Suspended a Day After Uttarakhand High Court Order
The high court had asked the state government to ensure live streaming of visuals from the four shrines.
The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday, 29 June, suspended the Char Dham Yatra until further notice, a day after the Uttarakhand High Court directed the state government to not allow the same, arguing that religious faith cannot be allowed to override “public safety”.
The court had also asked the Uttarakhand government to ensure live streaming of visuals from the four shrines.
Referring to the COVID-19 crisis that unfolded in Uttarakhand following the Kumbh Mela, the court had asked the government on Monday, how it will ensure compliance.
“It is in the interest of the public to stay the operation of Cabinet decision dated 25 June and to direct the government not to permit pilgrims to reach the #CharDham temples.”Uttarakhand High Court, as quoted by Bar & Bench.
The court’s order came after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state on 25 June, decided to allow pilgrims only from the districts in which the shrines are located from 1 July.
The government had also said that RT-PCR tests would be mandatory for these pilgrims, who would only be allowed in a limited number.
What If Plan Fails? Asks HC
Referring to an affidavit submitted before it by the government, the court noted that similar SOPs had been drafted before the Kumbh Mela. “Then what happened? Photos and videos at Kumbh showed that #COVID19 protocols like social distancing and masking were not being followed,” the court said on Monday.
Dr Ashish Chauhan, the additional secretary of the Cultural and Religious Affairs Department, responded to the court’s question saying that the government will try its “best to ensure safety”.
This prompted the court to ask, “What happens if you fail? If people die due to the #CharDhamYatra would the government take on the burden of compensating families where there are deaths.”
The court also wondered why the state of Uttarakhand was “inviting another catastrophe” when other countries were taking precautions to avoid the third wave of COVID-19.
When Dr Chauhan noted that all devotees were required to carry an RT-PCR test, the court asked if the government had forgotten about the fake tests that were reportedly carried out by a lab during the Kumbh Mela.
Debate on Live Streaming
When the court asked the government to come up with a live streaming service for devotees, Chef Secretary Om Prakash said that some of the priests, who he labelled ‘trouble makers’, would have to be consulted.
Saying that the judiciary cannot give in to troublemakers, the court asked if the Dharma of priests is to “push mankind into this?”
When the state’s Advocate General SN Babulkar wondered if there was any provision for live streaming the customs, the court reportedly said, “There were no cameras at the time of the Vedas.”
AG Babulkar then asked if cameras around the Char Dham would pose a security risk, to which the court said “ We must protect all Char Dhams from attack. Please consult with the security forces. I presume our state has already secured the Chaar Dhams even in normal circumstances.”
What Happened Before?
On Friday, the state’s Cabinet had decided to go ahead with the Char Dham yatra only for residents of the district in which the shrine is located.
This meant that only residents of Rudraprayag, Chamoli, and Uttarkashi districts could visit Kedarnath, Badrinath, and Gangotri-Yamunotri respectively.
The Cabinet’s decision came after the Uttarakhand High Court asked for a review of the decision to allow the Char Dham yatra, as there was a “clear co-relation between the holding of Kumbh Mela in April 2021, and the consequent deaths that occurred in Uttarakhand in May 2021”.
Earlier on 20 June, the state had said that Char Dham yatra would be opened for residents of the district in which the shrine is located from 1 June and for the rest of the state from 11 June.
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