No state should allow the movement of devotees to Haridwar for collecting 'Ganga Jal' during Kanwar Yatra, the central government told Supreme Court on Friday.
However, it said that the states must develop a mechanism to make the water from Ganga available via tankers at designated locations so that people nearby can offer it at Shiva temples in their areas.
The central government also said that the collection of water and subsequent rituals are taking place in compliance with all Covid-19 safety norms, including wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.
Following this, the apex court told Uttar Pradesh to reconsider its decision of allowing the Kanwar Yatra.
It said that the decision "concerns all of us and is at the heart of the fundamental right to life. The health of citizens of India and right to life is paramount, all other sentiments whether being religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right."
The court told the state it of a decision by Monday.
This comes days after the apex court issued a notice to the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government on allowing Kanwar Yatra, considering the present Covid-19 situation.
The Yogi Adityanath government had earlier this week permitted the yatra from 25 July despite concerns raised in various quarters over the risk posed by such events in triggering a possible third wave of Covid-19.
In a hearing later, an SC bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman said that it is "disturbed" by the development.
"We wish to know what the stand of the respective governments is. The citizens of India are completely perplexed. They don't know what is going on," observed the bench.
"We are a little disturbed given today's headline in the newspaper about the Kanwar Yatra, which is likely to be held from 25 July. This Court has taken Suo Moto cognizance of the newspaper report and thus issues notice to the Union of India and the States of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to file their early response," it added.
Uttarakhand cancels pilgrimage
The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday cancelled the Kanwar Yatra in view of the third wave scare.
"We decided to cancel the yatra, according topmost priority to human life in view of the threat of a possible third wave, the surfacing of the Delta Plus variant of the virus and its impact across the country and abroad," said Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.
"The decision was taken after a meeting with senior officials and considering all aspects into account including the opinion of medical experts," he added.
Dhami also asked director general of police Ashok Kumar to coordinate with officials of the neighbouring states and request them to take effective steps to curb the spread of the virus.
Following this, the Haridwar police have stated that all borders of Haridwar will be sealed during the Kanwar Mela. Further, those who travel to the district from other states will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day institutional quarantine.
"Kanwar Mela 2021 has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In view of this, we request all devotees to cooperate with the police force this year and not reach Haridwar to collect water from River Ganga," the police said.
They went on to say that any vehicle that is found attempting to enter Haridwar will be seized.
"Any violation of the rules will lead to police action under the Disaster Management Act," said police.
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