The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday postponed the Char Dham Yatra till further orders, reported ANI. The Tirath Singh Rawat government had earlier issued a fresh set of Covid-19 related guidelines for the pilgrimage despite an Uttarakhand High Court order putting a stay on it.
On June 25, the Cabinet had decided to open up the yatra for residents of Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi districts, where the Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines are located.
On Monday, the Uttarakhand High Court had stayed the state Cabinet’s decision allowing the Char Dham Yatra for local pilgrims of three districts from July 1, Live Law reported.
A bench of Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice Alok Verma said the Cabinet’s decision was arbitrary and unreasonable amid fears of an upcoming third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The judges also observed that the administration in Haridwar and Rishikesh had “singularly failed” to implement the guidelines during the Kumbh Mela held in April, leading to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
“There is, thus, a strong prima facie case in favor of the people, for not permitting the Char Dham Yatra, even in a limited manner,” the court said. “For, the lives of the people may be exposed to the danger of the Delta plus variant, and to the third wave of Covid-19. If the Char Dhar Yatra were permitted, we would again be inviting a catastrophe.”
The High Court referred to the second wave of the pandemic as a “tsunami”, with widespread shortages of oxygen and medicines.
“Suddenly our country was painted as a renegade, and as an irresponsible member of international community,” the High Court bench said. “Suddenly, flights coming from India were stopped by other countries. Even today, we are not free from the devastation caused by the second wave...”
They observed that hospitals and crematoriums were overwhelmed, adding that images showed the “pitiable condition” of citizens. “The decision of the Cabinet will unnecessarily expose the people to the dangers of the third wave,” the order said. “Thus, the decision is against Article 21 of the Constitution of India [right to life].”
The court directed the state government to ensure that the religious ceremonies performed within the temples are live-streamed.
The bench also rebuked the Tirath Singh Rawat-led government for filing a “vague and unclear” affidavit in the case, reported Bar and Bench. “It has purposely tried to mislead the court with its data,” the order said. “The High Court cannot be taken lightly by the government. You can be hauled up for perjury.”