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Kanwar Yatra - Supreme Court Intervention

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July 20, 2021

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh government to either withdraw the decision to allow the Kanwar yatra or invite an order from the court, given the fear of a third Covid-19 wave.
  • Uttar Pradesh government cancelled the Yatra after the Supreme Court intervention.

What is the case about?

  • In the Kanwar yatra, the Kanwarias, devotees of Shiva, make a pilgrimage to collect water from the Ganga.
  • It was not held last year (2020) due to COVID-19.
  • The Uttarakhand government had earlier cancelled the yatra in its territory.
  • It rightly heeded to warnings by experts that such large gatherings posed a major risk to public health, amidst fears of a third wave.
  • But Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath appeared keen that the pilgrimage be held this year (2021).
  • The Court was disturbed by reports of the plan to conduct the yatra, resulting in the initiation of suo motu proceedings.

What were the Court’s remarks?

  • The Court disagreed with even the idea of a ‘symbolic yatra’ in deference to religious sentiment.
  • It emphasised, “the health of the citizenry of India and their right to ‘life’ are paramount”.
  • It said that all other sentiments, albeit religious, were subservient to this most basic fundamental right.
  • This is a matter which concerns every one of us as citizens of India, and goes to the very heart of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Why is the case significant?

  • The organisation of the Kumbh Mela earlier in 2021 was seen as responsible for a surge in infections in the run-up to the disastrous second wave.
  • There may be a case for lockdown relaxations aimed at economic revival and restoration of normality in most parts of the country.
  • But there cannot be justifications for large gatherings in the name of religion.
  • Clearly, right to life and safety takes precedence over religious rights.
  • Any relaxation after a long spell of severe curbs will have to be based on a scientific assessment of the number of daily infections, the rate of positivity and signs of fall in cases.


Source: The Hindu, The Indian Express

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