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Posted at: Apr 17, 2018, 12:46 AM; last updated: Apr 17, 2018, 12:46 AM (IST)

SC sets aside NGT directive on curbs at Amarnath shrine

SC sets aside NGT directive on curbs at Amarnath shrine
Pilgrims on their way to the Amarnath shrine. Tribune file photo

New Delhi, April 16

The Supreme Court on Monday set aside a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order that had created a controversy by putting restrictions on devotees asking them to maintain silence while standing in front of the ‘Maha Shivling’, a natural formation inside the Amarnath cave in south Kashmir Himalayas.

The top court said the order issued on December 14, 2017, should not have been passed by the NGT on a petition which did not concern the Amarnath cave shrine.

Observing that due procedure needed to be followed, a bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked Gauri Mulekhi to file an appropriate petition with regard to the pollution at the Amarnath cave. The ‘Shivling’ is a stalagmite formed by freezing of water drops falling from the roof of the cave and growing up vertically from the cave floor. During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, said the tribunal had “jumped the gun” and imposed certain restrictions on chanting of religious hymns, carrying of devotional offerings (prasad) and use of mules to ferry devotees.

The bench asked an official of the board why the devotees, who could not walk the distance to the cave, not be dropped by helicopters. The official said about 1,000 people could be dropped by helicopters at a distance of four kilometres from the cave, but they have to walk the remaining part. Rohatgi said every day over 15,000 people visited the cave and the NGT had erred in putting the restrictions on them. “You (devotees) can’t carry prasad, you can’t go in palanquin, you cannot have ‘darshan’ properly and you are to be frisked at such and such points. In other words, I may say the NGT jumped the gun in passing the order,” he said.

The bench asked senior advocate Krishna Venugopal, appearing for Mulekhi, why a proper application could not be moved on the issue. It observed that devotees could get ‘prasad’ at the cave instead of carrying all along to the shrine cave. Venugopal said the NGT had not declared the entire area a silence zone and its only concern was the use of mules, due to which pollution was being caused in the area. Rohatgi said the petition also did not specifically talk about pollution at Amarnath cave but about Vaishno Devi near Jammu also.

“There is a procedure which needs to be followed. You file a fresh specific petition with regard to Amarnath shrine,” the bench said and set aside the order of the tribunal. The green panel had on December 14 had clarified it had not imposed any restriction, including the chanting of mantras and singing of bhajans inside the Amarnath cave shrine. It had said it has neither intended, nor declared the entire area as a “silence zone”. It had said the only restriction imposed was that any devotee should maintain silence while standing in front of the ‘Shivling’. — PTI

Tribunal jumped the gun: Defence lawyer  

During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, said the tribunal had “jumped the gun” and imposed certain restrictions on chanting of religious hymns, carrying of devotional offerings (prasad) and use of mules to ferry devotees. 

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