Health of citizens, right to life paramount: SC asks UP to reconsider Kanwar Yatra

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday pointed out that fear of a third Covid wave looms large over all Indians as it asked the Uttar Pradesh government to reconsider its decision on a physical Kanwar Yatra.

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On the Yogi Adityanath government’s symbolic Kanwar Yatra proposal, the court replied, “The right to life is paramount” and asked the government to reconsider its position on even a symbolic annual ritual that annually registers a heavy movement of pilgrims across states in the northern belt.

A bench comprising justices R.F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai insisted that authorities should reconsider whether to hold physical Kanwar Yatra at all, otherwise court will pass order in the matter.

“We are of the view that this is a matter which concerns everyone of us as citizens of India, and goes to the very heart of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which has a pride of place in the fundamental rights chapter of our Constitution. The health of the citizenry of India and their right to ‘life’ are paramount. All other sentiments, al beit religious, are subservient to this most basic fundamental right,” said the bench, in its order.

The bench told senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, who was representing the UP government, “given Covid pandemic and the fear of third wave, which looms over all Indians”, whether the authority will reconsider allowing the yatra at all for compelling religious reasons?

Vaidyanathan replied, “We have submitted affidavit from UP government. We just want a symbolic yatra”. However, the bench insisted that the UP government should reconsider it.

Justice Nariman added: “State of UP cannot go ahead with it. 100 percent”.

Vaidyanathan added State Disaster Management Authority deliberated upon this, and stated that for compelling religious reasons if someone wants to undertake the yatra, they should seek permission, have negative RT-PCR report and also be fully vaccinated.

Justice Nariman said: “We can give you one more opportunity to consider holding yatra physically at all. This or else we pass an order.”

Justice Nariman added, “We are all Indians and this suo motu has been taken up as Article 21 applies to all of us. Either you reconsider to have it at all or we deliver the order”.

Vaidyanathan said authorities will be apprised and will come out with additional affidavit by Monday morning as to whether there can be a reconsideration of holding a physical yatra amid these conditions if at all.

Uttarakhand counsel pointed out that the government has completely banned any physical form of the yatra on June 30.

“All the affidavits are taken on record, and the learned Solicitor General along with the other senior advocates/advocates are thanked for the prompt manner in which they have all immediately responded to this Court’s anguish,” said the bench.

The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on Monday.

On July 14, the top court took suo moto cognizance of the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to allow Kanwar Yatra amid the ongoing Covid pandemic.