Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh on Tuesday asked the authorities to take effective steps for ensuring safety of the pilgrims and devotees at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in keeping with the recommendations of a committee constituted for the purpose.
A division bench of Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal said this while closing a Public Interest Litigation( PIL) that had sought to make public the inquiry report of a three member committee constituted by the government to look into the incident of stampede at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji Shrine in Katra in the intervening night of 31.12.2021 and 01.01.2022 which had resulted into the death of 12 devotees and injuries to several persons.
Besides other directions, the PIL was also seeking the direction to fix accountability of the delinquent officials in the matter to avoid such incidents in the future.
Closing the PIL, the bench expressed satisfaction with regard to the steps taken by the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine to regulate the smooth conduct of the Yatra.
“We are of the opinion that the Shrine Board has taken all measures including short term, medium and long term with a view to streamline the yatra, beside taking all safety measures and also other measures insofar as the regular deployment of yatra officer, constitution of Joint Enforcement Team and regular announcement/video walls with a view to advise pilgrims to leave Bhawan after Darshan and playing of recorded announcements at regular intervals,” the bench said after perusing the record and detailed reply affidavit filed by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.
“Not only this, even the Board has undertaken various activities through its Administration and Operations Wing, the details of which have been referred in preceding paragraphs and the Board has completed various projects for better management and facilitation of pilgrims” it said.
The court said that the Government has constituted the high-level three members Committee by virtue of an Order (No.01- JK(GAD) of 2022 dated 01.01.2022) to examine in detail the causes and reasons behind the incident of stampede at the shrine in Katra (Reasi) in the intervening night of 31.12.2021 and 01.01.2022 which resulted into the death of 12 devotees and several persons were injured. The committee was asked to point out the lapses and fix the responsibilities thereto and to suggest the appropriate SOPs and measures for preventing re-occurrence of such incidents in future and the Committee was required to submit its report within a week’s time.
“We have not been apprised about the report of the Committee. However, the counsel for the Union Territory assures this Court that appropriate action as warranted in terms of the report will be taken,” the court said, adding, “In light of the assurance extended by the counsel for the Union Territory, necessary actions in the matter be taken in terms of the report submitted by the said Committee.”
Accordingly, the court directed authorities to take effective steps in furtherance of the decision and recommendations of the Committee for ensuring safety of the pilgrims and devotees.