New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order directing the opening of a new pathway to the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu for pedestrians and battery-operated cars from November 24.
The apex court order came after Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, which manages the day-to-day affairs as well as pilgrimage to the temple, said the construction work of the new path was not yet complete and it would be opened by February end next year.
The board told a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that two paths to the shrine were already operational for devotees and the third path was being built.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the board, said there was difficulty in construction work due to the arrival of winter in the area.
“The way directions have been given (by NGT), we have to come here. There is a huge slope. It is a seismic zone,” he said, adding “in winters, there is difficulty in construction work. Two roads are already there. This will be the third road”.
Rohatgi said the new path would be opened from February end as the board wants to complete the other works relating to shelter rooms for devotees and medical facility on the route.
The bench also issued notice to the petitioner before the NGT on whose plea the green panel had given the direction on November 13.
Besides directing the opening of the new path, the NGT had capped the number of visitors to the shrine at 50,000 per day. It had also said that no horses or mules shall be allowed on the new route.
The NGT had also directed the authorities to impose a fine of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering roads as well as the bus stop at the nearby Katra town.
The directions were issued while NGT was hearing a plea filed by activist Gauri Maulekhi seeking removal of horses and mules from the path to the shrine, saying these were dangerous for pedestrians, especially senior citizens.
The petitioner had also expressed concern over “pollution and danger to public health” caused by indiscriminate use of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys to carry pilgrims and goods from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple.
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