‘Kashmir News Trust #KNT
A Division Bench of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh at Jammu (through Virtual Mode from Srinagar) comprising Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sindhu Sharma allowed a month’s time to the Secretary, General Administration Department(GAD), Government of J&K, Principal Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor, Financial Commissioner(Additional Chief Secretary) Home Department, J&K Govt, ADGP (Jammu Zone), Divisional Commissioner (Jammu), Chief Executive Officer, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board(Katra), SSP Reasi, SDPO Bhawan and SHO P/S Bhawan(Katra) in a Public Interest Litigation seeking directions to the Government of J&K to make public the Inquiry Report of 03 Members Committee to look into the unfortunate incident of stampede at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji Shrine (Bhawan) in Katra, in the intervening night of December 31st,2021 and January 1st,2022 which resulted into the unfortunate death of 12 devotees and several others were injured.
These directions were issued in a PIL filed by Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed through Advocate H.A. Siddiqui.
After hearing Senior Advocate A.V. Gupta with Advocate H.A. Siddiqui and a battery of lawyers appearing for the petitioner and the petitioner-in-person, the Division Bench observed and directed in the open court that AAG Raman Sharma appearing for the UT Administration prays that he may be allowed time to seek instructions in the matter.
The DB on the prayer of Advocate Adarsh Sharma appearing for Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Katra also granted him time to file response and time was also granted to Deputy Advocate General K.D.S. Kotwal appearing for the Government of J&K to respond in the matter.
While buttressing his arguments, the Senior Advocate A.V. Gupta submitted that almost 09 months have elapsed but the Inquiry Report is yet to see the light of the day and it is quite unfortunate that matter of wide public importance was buried in a manner unknown to law. The attention of the Division Bench was also drawn to the RTI information wherein GAD divulged that no such Inquiry Report has been received by the GAD.
In the PIL, astonishing revelations have been made and it is averred that on a fateful night the Senior Officers of the Shrine Board reportedly stopped the Yatris from having Darshan the result a huge crowd got assembled outside the Bhawan and the Yatra was stopped to facilitate the Darshan of Holy Deity to a VVIP (reportedly a Senior Bureaucrat of the UT Administration) and because of this the unfortunate stampede took place on the eve of the New Year which resulted into the death of 12 innocent pilgrims.
After considering the submissions of Senior Advocate A.V. Gupta with Advocate H.A. Siddiqui and a battery of lawyers appearing for the petitioner as well as the submissions made by the AAG Raman Sharma, the Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal, allowed a month’s time to the UT Administration and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Katra to file their response by or before the next date of hearing. The DB also granted time to AAG Raman Sharma to seek instructions in the matter.
The Division Bench directed the Registry to re-notify the instant PIL on 28 October next month. (KNT)