A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that seeks to stop the mass gathering in Uttarakhand's Haridwar amid the ongoing Kumbh Mela was filed in the Supreme Court.
Filed by Sanjay Kumar Pathak, a Noida resident, the SC plea also makes a note of the public threat posed by mass election rallies in poll-bound states like West Bengal amid the unprecedented COVID-19 health crisis. Pathak is seeking directions from the Election Commission of India to take corrective steps, LiveLaw reported.
Lakhs of persons are attending Kumbh Mela without following the COVID-19 protocols which include wearing of face masks and following stringent social distancing measures, Pathak adds.
The plea reads, "...there is no protocol in place to ensure devotees who get infected at Haridwar do not go on to spread the virus when they return to their home districts," LiveLaw quoted.
Between 13 and 14 April, over 1000 COVID-19 cases were reported in Haridwar. On 15 April, Nirwani Akhada's chief, who had participated in the Mela, died due to the coronavirus.
"Blatant violations by the kumbh mela attendees were ignored despite the claim of respondent number 2 to take strict action against the violation of Covid guidelines," LiveLaw quoted the plea.
The petitioner also alleges that the Union of India, the State of Uttarakhand and the National Disaster Management Authority have not made an effort to discourage the mass gathering at Haridwar, even in the backdrop of a raging pandemic.
Further, the plea quoted Uttarakhand's Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, who had encouraged participation in the mela at an earlier occasion.
"Nobody will be stopped in the name of COVID-19 as we are sure the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus", the CM had said, as stated by the plea.
The petition has also made a case of the differential treatment of citizens by the authorities in-charge by saying: "On the one hand, poor common man on the street is often punished and treated violently by the Police and executive authorities for individual violations of Covid-19 Rules and regulations in the name of strict enforcement. On the other hand, the authorities are not only permitting but facilitating and promoting congregation of people in the events like Kumbh-2021 and Election rallies.”
It adds that “it is visibly clear that two separate and mutually inconsistent standards are being adopted by the authorities in dealing with the citizens of India.”
The plea seeks to direct the Centre and Uttarakhand Government to withdraw all advertisements inviting people to Haridwar for the Kumbh Mela, and to clear the mass gathering from the Haridwar city as soon as possible while prescribing a safety protocol for people who are returning from the Mela, LiveLaw reported.
(With inputs from LiveLaw)
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