Justice R. F. Nariman and Justice B. R. Gavai of the Supreme Court of India took suo motu cognisance of the affirmative decision taken by the government of Uttar Pradesh to conduct the Kanwar Yatra between July 25 and August 6 even though the neighbouring state of Uttarakhand had decided to cancel the Kanwar Yatra at Haridwar, citing the risk of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-judge bench held that the risk of the third wave of the pandemic, affirmed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is being ignored by the state of Uttar Pradesh in the midst of the COVID_19 pandemic.
The state of Uttar Pradesh was represented by senior Advocate C. S. Vaidyanathan while the Union of India was represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, wherein the latter presented the stand of the central government of dropping the idea of the Kanwar Yatra while the former suggested that any physical attendance of the Kanwar Yatra due to certain religious reasons would require the complete adherence of the said individual with the strict and stringent guidelines of the state: compulsory registration with the authorities, compulsory certificate of either full vaccination or negative RT-PCR test.
The bench added that the heavy movement of pilgrims in the northern belt of India, especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh endangers the Fundamental Right to Life including the Fundamental Right to Health of the citizens of India under Article 21 of the Constitution of India; additionally, the bench held that the Fundamental Right to Life is basic and paramount against any sentiments, including religious sentiments.
The bench warned the counsel representing the state of Uttar Pradesh to either reconsider its decision to conduct the Kanwar Yatra or wait for the Supreme Court to pass a direct order in that regard.
On July 17, 2021, the government of Uttar Pradesh decided to cancel the Kanwar Yatra, citing the gravity of the risk posed by the pandemic on the prospective pilgrims to the Kanwar Yatra in the light of a possible third wave of the pandemic.
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