Govt under constitutional obligation to give facilities to pilgrims: SC

The Supreme Court on thursday held that it is government's constitutional obligation to provide basic facilities to pilgrims who visit religious places and directed Centre and J&K government to ensure proper health and other amenities to Amarnath yatris.

Observing that arrangements for the yatris near the Holy Shrine are "pathetic", the apex court issued a slew of directions to the governments and the Amarnath Shrine Board for widening the walking tracks to the holy cave which may be covered by pre-fabricated tiles.

"It is the obligation of the State to provide safety, health care, means to freely move and to profess the religion in the manner as they desire insofar as it is within the limitations of law," a bench of justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said in their 67-page judgement.

"There is admittedly lack of basic amenities and healthcare. The walking tracks are not only deficient but are also not safe for the pedestrians. The management and arrangements for the yatris at the glacier and near the Holy Shrine are, to say the least, pathetic," it said adding that separate passage for pedestrians and for palkis and horses be made for pilgrims.

The court passed the order after taking suo motu cognisance of media reports on pilgrims¿ deaths allegedly due to lack of proper facilities and medical care for them.

The apex court said the management for the pilgrims suffers from basic infirmity, inefficiency and ill-planning. and the Centre, J&K and the Shrine Board are under a constitutional obligation to provide free movement, protection and health care facilities along with basic amenities.

"It has undoubtedly and indisputably come on record that the rights of yatris to the holy shrine enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution are being violated," the bench said.

The apex court said that the existing grill at the Holy Cave should be replaced by 100 percent transparent fibre or any other material to ensure that the darshan to the Shivlingam is not visually obstructed.

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