NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday granted one last opportunity to the Uttar Pradesh government to cancel by Monday the physical "Kanwar Yatra," or otherwise it will pass an order.
‘‘We can give you one more opportunity to reconsider holding the yatra physically. Either you reconsider to have it at all or we deliver," Justice R F Nariman remarked.
‘‘Health and the Right to Life is paramount,’’ the Supreme Court reasoned as it gave the Uttar Pradesh government time till Monday to reconsider its decision. "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 Nariman.
The Bench, which had taken suo moto cognizance of UP's Yatra plans, was not impressed with the UP Government offering to make the Yatra "symbolic", with minimum number of people and with strict compliance to COVID protocols.
The court also said that the health of citizens of India and right to life is paramount; all other sentiments, be it religious, are subservient to this basic fundamental right under Article 21 of Constitution," the court observed.
The State of Uttar Pradesh told the top court that total ban on the yatra will be inappropriate. "Therefore, the state disaster management authority feels it can be conducted in a symbolic manner with 'Gangajal' being made available in tankers (instead of collecting it from Haridwar)," Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan submitted on behalf of UP.
The 'Gangajal' can then be taken to the nearest Shiv temple for 'abhishek'. The case is adjourned for Monday next week. The yatra is scheduled to be held from July 25.
The Uttarakhand government, which is also ruled by the BJP, had heeded the ministry advise and banned "Kanwar Yatra" early this week; it had also asked the police to quarantine those reaching Haridwar to collect the Ganga water for 14 days despite the ban.
Drawing from its experience of holding the Kumbh Mela in April this year, which contributed to the spread of COVID-19, with many devout carrying forged Covid test reports, the Uttarakhand government decided to not allow Kanwar Yatra this year. It was also cancelled last year.