It is the government’s constitutional obligation provide facilities to the yatris
The Supreme Court on Thursday held that it is the government’s constitutional obligation to provide basic facilities for pilgrims who visit religious places and directed the Central and the Jammu and Kashmir governments to ensure proper health and other amenities for Amarnath yatris .
Observing that arrangements for the yatris near the cave shrine are “pathetic,” the Apex court issued a slew of directions to the governments and the Amarnath Shrine Board for widening the walking tracks to the cave, which may be covered by pre-fabricated tiles.
“It is the obligation of the State to provide safety, healthcare, means to freely move and to profess the religion in the manner as they desire insofar as it is within the limitations of law,” a Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said in their 67-page judgment.
“There is admittedly lack of basic amenities and healthcare. The walking tracks are not only deficient, but are also not safe for pedestrians. The management and arrangements for the yatris at the glacier and near the holy shrine are, to say the least, pathetic.”
The Bench also added that separate passages for pedestrians, and for palkis and horses be made for the pilgrims. The court passed the order after taking suo motu cognisance of media reports on pilgrims’ deaths allegedly due to lack of proper facilities and medical care. “It has undoubtedly and indisputably come on record that the rights of the yatris to the holy shrine enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution are being violated,” the Bench said.
It said the existing grill at the holy cave should be replaced by 100 per cent transparent fibre or some other material to ensure that darshan to the Shiva lingam is not visually obstructed.
The Court had earlier appointed a Special High Powered Committee to recommend measures to curb the growing number of casualties among Amarnath pilgrims. It comprised of representatives from different Ministries of the Centre, Chief Secretary and other officers of Jammu and Kashmir, Director-Generals of the Border Security Force and the Border Roads Organisations, etc. Around 6.20 lakh pilgrims undertook the yatra this year, out of which 93 lost their lives. — PTI