Death of over 65 Amarnath yatris: SC issues notice to Centre

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Amarnath Yatra
New Delhi, Jul 16: Expressing concern over the high number of casualties during this year's Amarnath Yatra, the Supreme Court has demanded an explanation from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government.

As many as 67 pilgrims died in the first 17 days of the yatra this year. In 2011, 105 lives were lost but the deaths occurred over the entire 45-day period of the pilgrimage.

The apex court has therefore issued notices to the Union Home Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary and chairperson of the Amarnathji Shrine Board. They have all been directed to appear before Justices BS Chauhan and Swantanter Kumar in a week.

Citing media coverage of the deaths, the SC bench observed that the reports clearly showed a disregard for human life.

"In our considered view, the pilgrims have a constitutional right under Articles 21 (right to life) and 19(1)(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India, free of fear, with dignity and safety and to ensure enforcement of such right is the primary obligation of the State and the Central governments," the judges said.

"The yatris do have a right and the State is under constitutional obligation to provide safe passage, proper medical aid, appropriate arrangement and at least some shelter to thousands of yatris visiting the holy cave every day," they stressed.

"The authorities cannot shirk their responsibility of providing minimum essential facilities including medical assistance, roads and other necessary infrastructure. Visit of lakhs of people to the State of Jammu & Kashmir generates revenue for the State, in fact, for the residents of that State and add to the need for better tourism facilities. The authorities are also expected to better equip the Forces posted at the holy cave, base points and en route to the holy cave," the SC bench added.

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