Kerala High Court Raises Permissible Number Of Daily Pilgrims At Sabarimala Temple As 5000

first_imgNews UpdatesKerala High Court Raises Permissible Number Of Daily Pilgrims At Sabarimala Temple As 5000 LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK18 Dec 2020 7:41 AMShare This – xThe High Court of Kerala has raised the number of permissible daily pilgrims at Sabarimala temple as 5000 with effect from December 20.The Court also directed that Covid-19 negative certificate should be insisted from the pilgrims after conducting RTPCR test within 48 hours of reaching Nilakkal, from NABL accredited ICMR approved laboratories from December 30, instead…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?LoginThe High Court of Kerala has raised the number of permissible daily pilgrims at Sabarimala temple as 5000 with effect from December 20.The Court also directed that Covid-19 negative certificate should be insisted from the pilgrims after conducting RTPCR test within 48 hours of reaching Nilakkal, from NABL accredited ICMR approved laboratories from December 30, instead of antigen tests.The Court passed this direction taking into account the fact that the antigen test cannot be considered as a conclusive test, regarding the COVID positivity.A division bench comprising Justices CT Ravikumar and K Haripal passed the directions on a batch of writ petitions which challenged the various restrictions imposed by the State Government and the Travancore Devaswom Board(TDB) with respect to the pilgrimage at the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala amid the COVID19 situation.The High Level Committee under the Chairmanship of the Kerala Chief Minister had decided on October 5 to permit pilgrimage at Sabarimala during the present mandalakalam season allowing 1000 daily pilgrims on weekdays and 2000 daily pilgrims on weekends and 5000 daily pilgrims on special pooja days. The pilgrims were required to register through the virtual queue system and to provide Covid negative certificate from an authorized lab.In an earlier order passed on October 15, the same bench had noted that this decision of the High Level Committee was taken without adverting to many relevant aspects, including the opinion of the Travancore Devaswom Board. Though the order was passed exactly a month ago the beginning of the mandalakalam season on November 15, the next meeting of the High Level Committee took place on November 26, the bench noted in the order.The bench expressed its displeasure at this delay for the meeting. In the said meeting, the TDB recommended that 10,000 pilgrims could be allowed daily considering the fact that the footfall during normal seasons is around one lakh per day.In the meeting held on November 26, the High Level Committee decided to increase the daily permissible pilgrims as 2000 on weekdays, 3000 on weekends. This decision was taken noting the fact that about 40% pilgrims who registered in the virtual queue system do not turn up.While ordering the increase of daily pilgrims, the Court noted the Revised Health Advisory for Sabarimala package submitted by the Health Department on December 14. As per the said advisory, there would be dynamic transmission in closed places with poor air flow, crowded places and places where there is possibility of close face to face contact, according to the revised advisory.In this regard, the Court observed :”The Sannidhanam cannot be said to be a closed place with poor air flow. When there is restriction in regard to the number of pilgrims there is no room for crowding in Sannidhanam. The only thing is that the number should be fixed taking into all the relevant aspects to avert such a situation. It is taking into account the nature of the Sannidhanam and the surroundings, the space available in Sannidhanam and the surrounding places and also the fact that from KSRTC Stand to Pampa there is a distance of about 6 kms that the President of the TDB recommended for fixing the number of pilgrims as 10,000 as can beseen from Annexure-R1(b), marked as such in the statement filed in W.P.(C.)No.23869/2020 on behalf of the first respondent. That apart,when pilgrimage is possible only for persons who got registered in the virtual queue management system it would be possible to fix the timefor registrants in such a manner to avoid crowding in Sannidhanam.Going by decision No.5(e) the meeting held on 05.10.2020 devotees would not be permitted to stay at Sannidhanam and Pampa Ganapathi Kovil during night. Therefore, it is obvious that after the darshan the pilgrims will go down the hill within a reasonable time. Then, the situation of close face to face contact can be avoided if the police personnel employed thereunder takes care in that regard. Taking into account the fact that every day there is a dropping of registration andon all day there would be decrease by about 40%, we are of the viewt hat the number can be increased a little”Considering the fact that no date has been fixed for the next meeting of the committee after December 14, and that almost half of the season is over, the Court thought it fit to make the interference.”According to TDB with strict adherence to Covid-19 protocol it would be possible to permit 10000 pilgrims to undertake pilgrimage. Seeing the permissible number of pilgrims fixed in the meeting held on 26.11.2020 and proposal regarding its enhancement revealed from the meeting held on14.11.2020, we are of the view that number of pilgrims to be permitted to undertake pilgrimage has to be fixed taking note of the factum of dropping out about 40% of pilgrims on every day”.The Court however refused to interfere with the other restrictions imposed regarding the ritual of Neyyabhishekam, noting the fact that the decision was taken based on the stand of the Thantri.The court passed the directions in the writ petition filed by Chennai based devotee Sunil KP through Advocate M S Suvidutt and also connected writ petitions.Advocates K R Sunil, T K Ajithkumar, Santheep Ankarath, TD Susmith Kumar, V Sajith Kumar appeared for the petitioners in the connected matters.The State was represented by Government Pleader T K Anandakrishnan and the TDB by G Biju.Click here to read/download the judgment Subscribe to LiveLaw, enjoy Ad free version and other unlimited features, just INR 599 Click here to Subscribe. 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