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J&K HC notice on release of report on stampede deaths in Vaishno Devi temple

The senior counsel further submitted that the aforesaid panel was directed to submit its report within weeks’ time to the Government of J&K. Nine months have passed but the enquiry report is yet to see the light of the day.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

A Division Bench of the J&K and Ladakh High Court on Thursday sought reply within a month’s time from the Union Territory Government and the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which has sought the release of the report of a three-member committee that probed the death of 12 devotees and injury to several others in a stampede at the holy place on January 1 this year.

After listening to senior advocates AV Gupta, HA Siddiqui and a battery of lawyers appearing for the petitioner as well as the submissions made by the Additional Advocate General Raman Sharma, the Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sindhu Sharma directed the registry that keeping in view the public interest involved in the matter to re-notify on October 28 the PIL filed by advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed.

Sheikh Shakeel in the PIL has sought directions to the UT Administration and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board to fix the accountability of the delinquent officers who remained remiss in performance of their duties on the fateful night when the pilgrims lost their lives. The lawyers claimed that accountability was not fixed for the reasons best known to the authorities at the helm of affairs.

The Lieutenant Governor, who is the chairman of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, on January 1, 2022 constituted a three members enquiry panel headed by then Principal Secretary, Home, J&K Government to look into the unfortunate incident and examine in detail the causes and reasons behind the incident and point out the lapses and fix the responsibility thereof and suggest the appropriate SOPs and measures for preventing recurrence of such incidents in future.

The senior counsel further submitted that the aforesaid panel was directed to submit its report within weeks’ time to the Government of J&K. Nine months have passed but the enquiry report is yet to see the light of the day. The PIL claimed that to facilitate a senior bureaucrat of the UT to have ‘darshan’ of the deity in the cave shrine, senior officers of the Shrine Board reportedly stopped the pilgrims from entering the shrine as a result of which a huge crowd gathered outside the Bhawan triggering the stampede.

Senior Advocate Gupta, who was assisted by advocate HA Siddiqui, further submitted that the petitioner made lot of efforts to persuade the authorities to make public the enquiry report and even made a representation to the chairman of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Katra but till date nothing has been heard in this regard and the petitioner was constrained to knock at the doors of this Court.