As a countdown has begun for this year’s Kanwar Yatra amid COVID-19 times, the SC ruled that the religious sentiments of people overpower the right to life and health. Taking a learning from the COVID-19 case explosion which occurred after the Kumbh Mela was not cancelled, the Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh to reconsider the holding of the event.
On Friday, the Supreme Court said that Indian citizens’ right to health overpowers all other sentiments including religious ones. The Supreme Court’s statement came at a time when Uttar Pradesh decided to not cancel the Kanwar Yatra. The apex court’s statement regarding the Kanwar Yatra came during a case regarding the Yatra during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Health of citizen is paramount, all other sentiments subservient”: SC
The Supreme Court bench of Justice Rohinton Nariman and B.R. Gavai said-
“We are of prima facie view that it concerns all of us 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 top court further said that Uttar Pradesh will not be allowed to hold the Yatra. The Court’s statement was a definitive one with the bench ruling, “State of Uttar Pradesh cannot go ahead with it. 100 percent.” It should be noted that Uttarakhand suspended the Yatra on Tuesday this week.
Blanket ban on yatra ‘inappropriate’: Uttar Pradesh
Although the Court did not give a definitive directive to the UP government on the suspension of the Yatra, it did list the whole matter for a further consideration. Meanwhile, arguing for the Uttar Pradesh government, the lawyers said that a blanket ban on the Yatra will be “inappropriate”.
Advocate C.S. Vaidhyanathan represented Uttar Pradesh government and said-
“The state disaster management authority thought to conduct it in a symbolic manner with ‘Gangajal’ be made available in tankers (instead of collecting it from Haridwar).”
The ‘Gangajal’ will be distributed to the devotees from their nearest Shiva temple.
Only fully vaccinated devoted will take part: UP Tells Supreme Court
The state told the Supreme Court that it will let a symbolic yatra be held and only those who have been completely vaccinated could take part in the Yatra.
“The UP-Disaster Management Authority discussed this issue and said those who undertake the yatra must be fully vaccinated.”
“This is an age-old custom and considering religious sentiments, states must develop a system to make holy Ganga jal available through tankers. States must ensure distribution of Ganga jal amongst devotees should follow social distancing, adhering to all protocols,” the Supreme Court was told.
“We give you one more opportunity to consider”: SC Tells UP, Adjourns Matter till Monday
The Supreme Court however did not budge and asked the State to reconsider its decision to be holding any form of physical yatra and gave the time till Monday. The Court asked the State to examine the issue further and file an additional affidavit.
Justice Nariman was quoted by Bar and Bench saying-
“We can give you one more opportunity to consider holding yatra physically at all. This or else we pass an order. 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 Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states-
“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law, nor shall any person be denied equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”