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HC closes proceedings in PIL seeking fixing responsibilities for Dec 2021 stampede at Vashno Devi shrine

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Srinagar: The J&K High Court has closed proceedings in a public interest litigation (PIL) that sought fixing responsibilities into the stampede at Vashno Devi Shrine (Katra Jammu) in December 2021 in which 12 pilgrims were killed and many others injured.

The PIL was filed by advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed through H A Siddiqui and Supriya Chouhan. It sought directions to the respondent authorities to make public the inquiry report of the three-member committee constituted by the government on January 01, 2022.

It is significant to mention here that the committee was required to submit its report within a week.

The committee was to look into the incident of stampede at the shrine in the intervening night of 31.12.2021 and 01.01.2022.

The petitioner prayed for appropriate directions against the respondent authorities as envisaged under the committee to fix accountability of the delinquent officers and officials in the matter so that such incidents did not recur.

The petition said it is the duty of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and its officers to ensure safe and proper performance of worship at the shrine and also to do all such things as may be incidental and conducive to the efficient management, maintenance and administration of the shrine and the convenience of the pilgrims.

Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal who ordered closure of the proceedings of the PIL observed the government had constituted the high-level three-member committee to examine in detail the causes/reasons behind the incident, pointing out the lapses.

The court found that the committee was also to fix the responsibilities thereto, suggest appropriate SOPs for preventing recurrence of such incidents in future and the committee was required to submit its report within a week’s time.

But “we have not been apprised about the report of the said committee,” said the Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal.

The bench added the counsel for the Union Territory, however, has assured the court that appropriate action as warranted in terms of the report will be taken.

The bench asked for necessary actions in the matter in terms of the report submitted by the committee and in light of the assurance extended by the counsel for the Union Territory.

Accordingly, it directed the respondents to take effective steps in furtherance of the decision and recommendations of the committee so constituted for ensuring safety of the pilgrims and devotees.

The PIL explained “during the intervening night of 31.12.2021 and 01.01.2022, unprecedented numbers of yatris were allowed to reach at Bhawan. Because of the huge influx of the pilgrims coupled with sheer mismanagement and lack of supervision, a stampede took place which claimed 12 innocent lives”.

It read that in view of the incident and keeping in view the seriousness of the matter, the Chairman of the Shrine Board, the Lieutenant Governor of Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, constituted a three member committee.

The committee was to suggest measures so as to instill people’s confidence in the rule of law, to ascertain the causes/reasons behind the tragic incident and fix the responsibility.

The petition vehemently argued that the committee was under an obligation to have submitted its report within a week’s time which was never done.


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