Kerala

Allow overnight stay at Nilakkal, says HC

Observing that the COVID-19 safety protocol should not ultimately affect a safe Sabarimala pilgrimage, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has ordered that pilgrims who reach Nilakkal at night on their way to or on return from Sannidhanam in the coming Madalam-Makaravilakku season be allowed to stay overnight at Nilakkal.

The Bench comprising Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice A. Hariapal, while considering the reports of Sabarimala Special Commissioner and the State government regarding the arrangements being made for the coming Sabarimala pilgrimage season, observed that as Nilakkal continued to be the base camp, facilities to stay at Nilakkal temporarily or overnight before proceeding to and also on their return after the darshan, should be provided to those pilgrims who required such arrangement. This was essential because those pilgrims reaching Nilakkal from faraway places at night might not be able to proceed to Sannidhanam straightaway.

The court said that there was no justification for virtually requiring devotees who returned from Sannidhanam after 9.30 p.m. and reached Nilakkal to leave in the late hours.

The court also ordered that sufficient facilities to accommodate the devotees who wanted to stay back at Nilakkal be provided.

The Bench ordered the State government to revisit the limit imposed on the number of pilgrims to be allowed during weekdays and holidays, as also on the Mandalapuja and Makaravilakku days, at Sannidhanam after giving due attention to all relevant aspects, including the number of hours available for darshan, the number of devotees who could be permitted in front of the Sreekovil at a time etc.

Private vehicles

The court also orders that the government have a re-look at the decision to prevent private vehicles from being taken beyond Nilakkal.

The court directed the government to limit the number of State guests and the guests of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) who could be allowed at Sabarimala. The entry of State guests without limiting their numbers might ultimately defeat the very purpose of the safety protocol, the Bench said.

The court also ordered the government to take a re-look at its decision to conduct Annadanam “in limited quantity” to pilgrims. It said pilgrims from faraway places who reached Sabarimala after a tiresome trek should be given food to satisfy their appetite. The concept of conducting “Annadanam in limited quantity” was alien to the concept of Annadanam, especially at Sabarimala, it said.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 10:03:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/allow-overnight-stay-at-nilakkal-says-hc/article32901557.ece

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