HC pulls up Uttarakhand govt. for violation of SOPs in tourist places

Court extends stay on Char Dham Yatra till the matter pending in SC is decided

The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday pulled up the State government for violation of COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) in tourist places and extended the stay on the Char Dham Yatra until the matter pending in the Supreme Court is decided.

Observing that 75% of tourists coming to Nainital were not following the COVID-19 SOPs, contributing to a rise in positive cases last week, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice R.S. Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma expressed concern over the increasing crowds at tourist places on weekends and inquired about the steps taken to control them.

The High Court had put a stay on the Char Dham Yatra on June 28 in view of the risks involved in conducting the pilgrimage amid the pandemic. The State government had approached the Supreme Court against the stay order. The apex court is yet to hear the matter.

During the hearing on a bunch of PILs related to the State government’s preparations for the yatra amid the pandemic, advocate Shiv Bhatt said the special leave petition presented by the government regarding the Char Dham Yatra has not yet been heard in the Supreme Court, so the order banning it should be taken forward. Since the stay issued by the High Court was to expire on Wednesday, it was duly extended until the next date of hearing —August 18 — or till the Supreme Court decides the matter.

The court directed the State to file a detailed reply on a slew of issues related to the COVID situation by August 18. It asked the district authorities about how they planned to control crowds at tourists spots.

Rise in COVID cases

The court observed that in Nainital itself, 75% of tourists were not following the SOPs, while no one was following social distancing. Due to this, 10 COVID-19 positive cases were reported in Nainital last week, it said.

The court asked as to how many cases have been registered against people disobeying the COVID-19 SOPs. It also asked the State government about the number of vacancies of doctors, nurses and technical staff in government hospitals and about the steps taken to fill them.

The High Court asked the district hospitals to bring forth the actual status of ambulances. Health Secretary Amit Negi apprised the court that there are 95 blocks in the State. Uttarakhand has 54 ambulances of ‘Dial 108’ service and 41 more ambulances are required to provide one in each block. For this, an application has been sent to the Union Ministry of Health.

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