The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to apprise it by July 19 on whether it would reconsider its decision to hold a "symbolic" Kanwar Yatra in the state, saying the right to life is paramount.
A bench of Justices RF Nariman and B R Gavai said that it is of the prima face view that all kinds of sentiments are subservient to Article 21 of the Constitution. Justice Nariman said: "State of Uttar Pradesh cannot go ahead with it. 100 percent".
"We are prima facie of the view that this is a matter concerning every citizen and all other sentiments, including religious are subservient to right to life of citizens. The health of citizens of India & right to life is paramount, all other sentiments whether being religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right," said the bench.
The top court's direction came after the Uttar Pradesh government told the bench that it has decided after relevant discussions to hold a "symbolic" Kanwar Yatra with appropriate Covid restrictions.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Centre told the top court that states shall not be allowed to hold Kanwar Yatra in view of Covid and arrangements for Ganga water should be made by tankers at specified places.
However, considering religious sentiments, state governments must develop a system to make 'Ganga Jal' available via tankers at designated locations, it told the Supreme Court during a hearing on the matter.
"Considering the age-old customs and religious sentiments attached, the State governments must develop a system to make holy "Gangajal” available through tankers which should be available at an identified / designated locations so that nearby devotees can collect such 'Ganga jal'," the affidavit filed by Central government said.
State governments must ensure that distribution of 'Ganga Jal' among devotees &rituals by such devotees in the nearby Shiv Temples take place while mandatorily ensuring social distancing, wearing masks and adhering to all steps required during COVID-19 crisis, the affidavit added.
On July 14, the top court had had taken suo motu cognisance of media reports on the Uttar Pradesh government's decision to allow 'Kanwar Yatra' amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and sought responses from the state as well as the Centre "given the disparate political voices" on the matter.
It had referred to the statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that not even a bit of compromise can be made on COVID-19 containment and said the citizens were perplexed about the happenings in view of the fact that the UP government has allowed the religious 'yatra' commencing from July 25. It had issued notices to the Centre and the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)