Satisfied With Smooth Vaishno Devi Yatra Post 2022 Stampede: HC

Jammu- The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has disposed of a petition seeking information about an inquiry report into a stampede at the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine last year, saying it is satisfied with steps taken by the authorities concerned to regulate the smooth conduct of the yatra.

The division bench of Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Judge Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal, however, directed the government to take effective steps in furtherance of the decision and recommendations of the three-member committee for ensuring safety of the devotees.

In a first-ever stampede at the shrine in Reasi district on January 1 last year, 12 pilgrims lost their lives and 16 others were injured following which the government constituted a three-member committee with a direction to submit its report within a week.

Advocate Sheikh Shakeel filed a public interest petition in the high court, seeking appropriate directions for making public the inquiry report of the committee. Besides, the petitioner also sought directions to fix accountability in the matter so that such incidents do not recur.

After hearing both sides, the division bench in its 23-page order issued on April 26 said, “We are satisfied with regard to the steps taken by the Board to regulate the smooth conduct of the Yatra. Therefore, no fruitful purpose would be achieved to keep the present PIL alive”.

After pursuing the records and detailed reply affidavit filed by the board, the court said it is of the opinion that all necessary measures – short term, medium and long term were taken with a view to streamline the yatra.

It said the board has undertaken various activities through its administration and operations wing for better management and facilitation of pilgrims.

“Before parting, we would like to emphasize that since the government in General Administration Department has constituted the high-level three-member committee to examine in detail, the causes/reasons behind the incident, point out the lapses and fix the responsibilities thereto and to suggest the appropriate SOPs and measures for preventing recurrence of such incidents in future and the said Committee was required to submit its report within a week’s time.

“We have not been apprised about the report of the said committee. However, the learned counsel for the Union Territory assures this court that appropriate action as warranted in terms of the report will be taken. In light of the assurance extended by the learned counsel for the Union Territory, necessary actions in the matter be taken in terms of the report submitted by the said Committee,” the court said.

Accordingly, the court directed the administration to take effective steps in furtherance of the decision and recommendations of the Committee so constituted for ensuring safety of the pilgrims.

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