The Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday (May 20) made critical observations against the State Government for allowing the ‘Kumbh Mela’, in which over 10 million devotees congregated over several weeks, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Court came down heavily on the State Government over its failure to ensure that COVID norms were being followed in the temples and religious festivals.
A Bench of Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice Alok Verma said that the blatant violation of social distancing norms during these religious gatherings have caused embarrassment to the State.
“First we make the mistake of Kumbh Mela, then there is Char Dham. Why do we repeatedly cause embarrassment to ourselves?,” the Chief Justice asked.
The remarks came after the Court came across videos on social media showing a large number of priests moving around in pilgrimage centres, Badrinath and Kedarnath in violation of social distancing norms.
“Who is supervising, or is it left to the priests? What happens if Corona virus spreads among the priests? Even when deity is being worshiped, you can’t permit twenty priests to enter, because of the small size of room,” the Court observed.
A State Tourism Department representative told the Court that for each place of worship, there are earmarks to ensure distancing.
“Nobody is following your earmarks. Please take a chopper to Char Cham, you will find what the reality is. Please take next chopper to Char Dham, go to Kedarnath … “ the Chief Justice responded.
The Court added that the videos showing violations of social distancing are available on social media. The government should be asking questions to violators instead of the Court, the Chief Justice added.
“Those videos which are available on social media. You yourself should be asking these questions, instead of court asking these questions. You are issuing orders on paper, no one is implementing,” he said.
The Chief Justice went on to emphasise that the State Uttarakhand is accountable to the people and the Central government.
“We cause embarrassment to ourselves. The rest of the country is saying why can’t Uttarakhand learn? I feel embarrassed when colleagues call me and ask what is happening in the State … You can fool the Court, but you cannot fool the people, the reality exists out there… you are playing with the lives of millions of people in the country,” the Chief Justice added.