NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of a "disturbing" news on 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 on the matter.
A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman 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 as the UP government has allowed the religious 'yatra' commencing from July 25.
It issued a notice to the Centre and the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand while posting the matter for hearing on Friday.
The bench said that it read something "disturbing" that the state of UP has chosen to continue with the Kanwar yatra, while Uttarakhand with its hindsight of experience, has decided against it.
"We wish to know what the stand of the respective governments is," said the bench also comprising Justice B R Gavai.
"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 a third wave of COVID striking the nation, saying 'we cannot compromise even one bit'.
"We are issuing notice to the Centre, UP and Uttarakhand and because the yatra is scheduled to leave from 25 July, we want them to file an early response so that the matter can be heard on Friday", the top court said.
The Yogi Adityanath government on Tuesday allowed the yatra from July 25 despite concerns raised in various quarters over the risk posed by such events in triggering a possible third wave of COVID-19.
The UP Chief Minister has urged however that only a minimum number of people should participate in the annual Kanwar Yatra and directed strict implementation of the COVID-19 protocol.
Every year, tens of thousands of ''Kanwariyas'' (devotees of Lord Shiva) from 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 as part of the yatra.
Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government has cancelled the 'Kanwar Yatra' in view of a possible third wave.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had said that though Kanwar Yatra is part of Sanatan culture, saving lives in the time of the pandemic was paramount.
The fortnight-long yatra, which begins with the onset of the month of Shravan by the Hindu calendar goes on till the first week of August, and sees a large gathering of Kanwariyas in Haridwar from neighbouring states including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi to collect the holy waters of the Ganga.