- The health of citizens and right to life is paramount, the court said
- UP government had told the bench it would allow a symbolic yatra
- Centre stand was based on impact on people health with religious feelings
Health and the Right to Life is paramount, the Supreme Court said today as it gave the Uttar Pradesh government time till Monday to reconsider its decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra this year amid Covid worries.
“We all are citizens of India. Article 21 – the Right to Life – applies to all. UP cannot go ahead with physical yatra. 100 percent,” said Justice RF Nariman.
Posting the next hearing to Monday, the Supreme Court said it was giving the state “one more opportunity to reconsider” or else, it would pass orders.
“We are, of prima facie view, that it concerns all of us and is at the heart of the fundamental Right to Life. The health of citizenry of India and right to life is paramount, all other sentiments, whether it be religious (or otherwise), are subservient to this basic fundamental right,” Justices Nariman and BR Gavai said.
“We can give you one more opportunity to consider holding yatra physically at all. This or else we pass an order. We are all Indians and this suo motu has been taken up as Article 21 applies to all of us. Either you reconsider to have it at all or we deliver,” it said.
The Supreme Court had taken up the issue on its own and had asked UP and the Centre to respond on the yatra, which has been cancelled by Uttarakhand.
The UP government told the court it would allow a symbolic yatra and that only devotees who have been fully vaccinated could participate.
“The UP Disaster Management Authority discussed this issue and said those who undertake the yatra must be fully vaccinated. Gangajal is being kept at tankers at locations,” the UP government’s lawyer, CS Vaidyanathan, told the court.
The Centre did not oppose the Kanwar Yatra but spoke about religious sentiment.
“This is an age-old custom and considering religious sentiments, states must develop a system to make holy Gangajal available through tankers. States must ensure distribution of Gangajal amongst devotees should follow social distancing, adhering to all protocols,” the Centre told the court.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court had said citizens were “perplexed” that UP had allowed the yatra at a time Prime Minister Narendra Modi and medical experts have warned against large gatherings and have urged people to follow social distancing and other Covid protocol.
The yatra had been cancelled last year, too, amid the first wave.
Every year, an estimated 30 million Kanwariyas (devotees of Lord Shiva) from various northern states travel on foot or by other means to collect water from River Ganga at Haridwar to offer at Shiva temples in their areas.
The fortnight-long yatra, which begins with the onset of the month of Shravan, around July 25, and goes on till the first week of August, sees Kanwariyas from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh gathering in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar.