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 "given the disparate political voices" 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 notices to the Centre and the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand while posting the matter for hearing on Friday.
The bench, also comprising Justice B R Gavai, said that it was "little disturbed" to read that UP has chosen to continue with the Kanwar yatra, while Uttarakhand with its hindsight of experience, has decided against it.
The apex court took suo motu of a news paper report and issued notice to the Union of India and the States of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to file their early response.
"The headline (in newspaper) just above this headline speaks about the Prime Minister's statement when he met the North-Eastern Chief Ministers that when people ask about the third wave of the COVID-19 virus striking the citizenry of India, it's up to us to stop it and we cannot compromise "even a bit"."
"Given the disparate political voices, all speaking at the same time, it is important that the relevant Secretary, Union of India, respond to this news report. Given the fact that this Yatra is to take off from July 25, 2021, it is necessary to fix a short time period for this case," the bench said.
The top court said that affidavits be filed by Friday morning, July 16, 2021, responding to the aforesaid news article by the relevant Secretary, Union of India; Principal Secretary to the State of Uttarakhand; and Principal Secretary to the State of Uttar Pradesh.
It directed the Registry to send a copy of this order to the Chief Justice of India forthwith.
"We wish to know what the stand of the respective governments is," said the bench.
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.