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Decide urgently on holding Amarnath Yatra in view of COVID-19: J&K HC to SASB

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Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday asked Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) to take an urgent decision on holding the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine, located in the south Kashmir Himalayas, keeping in mind the threat of COVID-19.

A 23-page order issued by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjay Dhar directed the SASB to convey their decision to amicus curiae Monika Kohli and the petitioner.

The court directed the Jammu and Kashmir administration to place the July 10 status report on holding Amarnath Yatra this year and other relevant material before the SASB for its consideration.

“The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and the respondents (J&K government) shall urgently take all decisions regarding the Yatra while complying with the order of the Supreme Court” of July 13 and the several concerns pointed out by the amicus curiae and the petitioner before the court, it said.

Asking them to take the decision, the court also directed that while taking a final call they should ensure compliance of all healthcare protocols, standard operating protocols notified by the Centre as well as by the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, guided by the principles laid down by the apex court that the right to health of every person has to be placed at the highest pedestal.

The decision should also address the concerns of health of security personnel, healthcare personnel, priests, pilgrims and of the officials involved in the arrangements and conduct of the Yatra besides the residents of the Union Territory.

In the decision making, the board shall ensure consideration of the welfare and support of all people, especially the members of the communities who provide the porterage/pithoos, palkis, mules and horses and who provide services during the pilgrimage.

Consideration would also need to be accorded to the welfare of the animals (mules, horses, ponies, etc.) involved and measures needed for the same, it said.

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