A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in Supreme Court seeking directions to stop the mass gatherings at Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttrakhand. The petitioner has also sought directions to the Election Commission to take corrective measures to stop the violation of Covid-19 protocols in election campaigns.
Referring to the public threat posed by massive election roadshows and gatherings at Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, a Noida resident Sanjay Kumar Pathak has filed the petition seeking corrective measures amid the surge of Covid-19 cases during the second wave. He drew attention to the election rallies in poll-bound states like West Bengal amid the unprecedented COVID-19 health crisis that can act as a super-spreader of the virus.
The petitioner stated that lakhs of people are attending Kumbh Mela without following any of the Covid guidelines whether it’s about wearing masks or maintaining social distancing.
The petition stated, “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 district.”
As per the reports, over 1000 Covid-19 cases were reported in Haridwar between April 13 and April 14. Nirwani Akhada head tested positive for Covid-19 and died on April 15.
“Photos and videos from the event show that COVID-19 protocols like physical distancing and wearing masks are not being followed at the event. Blatant violations by the Kumbh Mela attendees were ignored despite the claim of respondent no.2 to take strict action against the violation of Covid guidelines. On the other hand, India reported 1,68,912 new cases of Corona positive,” the plea said.
Even though the country is going through the toughest times and lakhs of cases are being reported on a daily basis, Indian railway is organizing teh special trains for Haridwar.
The petitioner also stated that the Union of India, the Uttrakhand government, and the National Disaster Management Authority have not taken any serious steps to stop the violation and prevent mass gathering at Kumbh Mela even after knowing that the second wave of coronavirus is hitting the country hard.
The petitioner also said that Uttrakhand CM, Tirath Singh Rawat has also encouraged more and more people to join the religious gathering while ignoring the critical situation posed by the current pandemic.
“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 petitioner referred to the Uttarakhand CM statement.
In the petition, it was also stated that front-page advertisements were given in leading newspapers inviting people for the Kumbh Mela, with the picture of the Chairman of the NDMA (Prime Minister), as a token of approval.
The petitioner drew attention to the Union Health Minister’s statement where he blamed the citizens for being careless and spreading the virus.
The petition states
“The respondents are acting arbitrarily and illogically despite the surge of COVID-19 cases in India. 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 is visibly clear that two separate and mutually inconsistent standards are being adopted by the authorities in dealing with the citizens of India. Police ki Lathi for the common man for Covid violations and celebration amidst the open mass violation of COVID-19 Protocol in full view, presence of and under the protection of authorities responsible for the implementation of Covid-19 protocols.”
The petitioner had sought relief under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. He has requested the Supreme Court to
- Direct the Governments of Centre and Uttarakhand to immediately withdraw all advertisements inviting people to Haridwar for the Kumbh Mela.
- Direct Centre, Uttarakhand, and NDMA to clear the mass gathering from the Haridwar city as soon as possible and prescribe a safety protocol with respect to people who are returning from the Mela to their native places.
- Direct respondents not to encourage or promote any event inconsistent with the spirit of COVID-19 safety protocols.
- Direct Election Commission of India to strictly enforce COVID-19 guidelines in places where elections are going on.