The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a petition seeking to restrict access of the general public, devotees and pilgrims to the annual pilgrimage for 2020 Amarnath Yatra in view of the outbreak of COVID-19.
“The issue as to whether the Amarnath Yatra 2020 should or should not be held is a matter must be left to the competence of the local administration”, said a bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph.
The petition filed by ‘Shri Amarnath Barfani Langars Organisation (Regd)’, through Advocate-on-Record Pai Amit, had also sought a direction that arrangements be made for “live darshan” at the shrine through the internet and electronic media.
Referring to the Clause 1(v) of the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on June 29, Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the religious functions and other large congregations had been excepted from the range of activities permissible outside containment zones.
Mr. Kamat added that the Amarnath Yatra would breach the guidelines and, hence, an order of restraint of the Court was warranted. He also relied upon the recent order of the apex court issuing a set of directions for conducting Jagannath Yatra. However, the submission made on behalf of the petitioner did not find favour with the court which observed-
“The parameters of judicial review must be borne in mind while addressing ourselves to the issues raised before this court. The decision as to whether a pilgrimage should be permitted and, if it is permitted, the safeguards which should be observed, are matters which fall within the domain of the executive arm of the State. In arriving at a decision, the administrative authorities must bear in mind statutory provisions governing the field and policies and administrative circulars issued in pursuance of statutory provisions”.
The bench went on to state “Any decision that is arrived at has to be based on law and on relevant statutory provisions holding the field. Entertaining a writ petition under Article 32 at this stage would necessarily involve this Court taking over an executive function of oversight over the local administration”.
The principle of separation of powers, the court said, required that administrative decisions must be taken where they are entrusted, namely by the executive arm of the state.
The court, however, granted liberty to the petitioner to provide such inputs as they may be advised to furnish having regard to their experience of assisting in the pilgrimage in the past to the local administration.
Read the order here: