The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to reconsider its decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra given health concerns in times of COVID-19 pandemic.
"UP cannot go ahead with the Kanwar Yatra, 100%," Justice Rohinton Nariman said.
"This matter (the Kanwar Yatra) concerns everyone as citizens of India. The health of citizenry and life is of paramount importance, any religious views or beliefs are subservient to the right to life," Justice Nariman observed.
The Kanwar Yatra is the annual pilgrimage undertaken by devotees of Lord Shiva to Haridwar, Gaumukh, and Gangotri in Uttarakhand and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch holy waters from the River Ganga and use that to perform abhishek (cleansing ritual) in their Shiv temples. This year, the yatra is slated to commence on July 25 to August 6. According to authorities, nearly 3.5 crore devotees had visited Haridwar in the 2019 yatra, while 2-3 crore people had visited other pilgrimage spots. The 2020 yatra did not take place in light of the pandemic
The top court on Wednesday had taken cognizance of the UP government's decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra, even as the Uttarakhand rescinded its decision to allow the same.
Allow Symbolic Kanwar Yatra: UP to SC
On Friday, while responding to the top court's concerns the UP government said that it proposed to allow the Kanwar Yatra in a "symbolic way". The State Disaster Management Authority has deliberated into this issue and for compelling religious reasons, if devotees want to undertake the yatra, they have to seek permission and would be allowed participation only on issuance of a negative RT-PCR report or have been vaccinated.
The Centre however said that state governments should not allow the yatra and instead, Gangajal must be transported through tankers from Haridwar to Shiv Mandirs so devotees can collect the same and do abhishek (cleansing ritual) upon their nearest Shiv temples.
The top court asked the UP government to reconsider its decision, or the court would pass orders as it saw fit on Monday.
SC on Wednesday had taken suo motu cognisance of UP's decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra. "I read something in the Indian Express. The citizens of India are completely perplexed. They don't know what is going on. And all this amid the Prime Minister, when asked about the third wave of Covid striking the nation, saying 'we cannot compromise even one bit," Justice Nariman had said while issuing notice to UP government.
Justice Nariman referred to The Indian Express report which said: "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 pilgrims2 across states in the northern belt."