Health of citizens is above religion: Supreme Court directs government to reconsider its decision on Kanwar Yatra
The division bench of Supreme Court on Friday while hearing its suo moto writ petition directed the Government of Uttar Pradesh to reconsider its decision on Kanwar Yatra set to begin on July, 25. The order was passed after taking into account the current pandemic situation all over India. The States of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh (UP) had submitted its respective affidavits before the court wherein Uttarkand’s state counsel, Abhishek Atrey conveyed the information that it had positively called off the yatra while on the other hand the State of Uttar Pradesh had decided to carry on the symbolic yatra in the view of religious sentiments.
The State of Uttar Pradesh opined that complete restriction on yatra will be inappropriate. Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan on the behalf of the State of UP rather advised the court to permit continuance of yatra with limited gatherance following strict guidelines so that the symbolic ritual continuing since ages would not get discontinued. Kanwariyas’ (devotees of Lord Shiva) willing to participating in the yatra must be vaccinated with both the dozes and must be tested negative continuously for three days before participating. Additionally they must strictly adhere to COVID- 19 protocols like maintaining social distancing, hygiene etc.
The Supreme Court prioritizing the importance of health of the citizens stated that all other sentiments including religious sentiments are subservient to the right to health. The court put much emphasis on the fundamental right enumerated under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution (Right to life).
The bench comprising of Justices Rohinton Nariman and BR Gavai remarked that taking up annual Kanwar Yatra during this COVID-19 pandemic especially when there is a high expectation of the outbreak of third wave of virus will be harmful for the welfare of the citizens of the country at large. Therefore, the court held that it will not permit the State to hold yatra this year. The learned solicitor general, Tushar Mehta appearing on the behalf of the Centre was also against the opinion of the Advocate CS Vaidyanathan. He stated that allowing Kanwar Yatra will be merely inviting the carriers of virus during this pandemic. He further advised that State must make necessary arrangements of “Ganga Jal” at various places for the devotees.
The court noted, “We are of prima facie view that it concerns all of us as citizens of India 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 be religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right”.
The court gave three days time to reconsider its decision of allowing physical Kanwar Yatra. The State of UP is directed to present additional affidavit on the next date of hearing. It further warned the state by stating that if it fails to reconsider its decision it will pass an order in favor of the welfare of the citizens of the country as the fundamental right of Right to live is available to every citizen of India and nothing is above this constitutional right. The matter will be heard further on 19th July, 2021
Case: In Re: Alarming Newspaper Report Regarding Kanwar Yatra in State of UP.