‘First we make mistake of Kumbh Mela, then Char Dham; why are we embarrassing ourselves’: Uttarakhand HC
In another matter, the Bench came down upon the Central government after its representative failed to appear before the court to answer queries on oxygen allocation to the state
The Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday expressed its displeasure at the failure of the state government in ensuring compliance with COVID protocol while holding religious events or gatherings like Kumbh Mela and Char Dham Yatra in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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, Bar & Bench reported.
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.
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.
The Chief Justice went on to emphasise that the state of 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.
The matter will be taken up next on June 9.
In another matter, the Bench came down upon the Central government after its representative failed to appear before the court to answer queries on oxygen allocation to the state.
It also took strong exception to the Central government's attitude towards Uttarakhand in allocation of oxygen, terming it “step motherly” treatment and “callous”.
When the court asked the Central government counsel on whether any officer is present before it as was requested by the court during the earlier hearing, the Central government counsel, Rakesh Thapliyal replied in the negative, saying the officer was busy.
“They can't be so busy as to not attend court,” the court said.
What irked the court was that oxygen produced in Uttarakhand was being given to other states without the meeting the requirements of the hill state. This was apparently forcing Uttarakhand to rely on other states to procure oxygen to compensate for the shortfall.
As the hearing progressed, the court was further irked by the absence of the officer to explain reasons for the same.
“Ask the concerned representative of the Central govt dept to explain. I will not take this answer that I am too busy to attend the court,” the Bench said.
The court warned that it will issue summons if the Centre's officer does not appear.
Amit Negi, a government official attached to the Chief Secretary's office, pointed out the that the Central government is yet to respond to the communications made to it with regard to the issue.
"I am surprised at the callous attitude of the central govt. Every request that the State of Uttarakhand is making is falling on deaf ears," the court remarked.
Published: 20 May 2021, 2:41 PM