PIL regarding stampede at Bhawan of Mata Vaishno Devi
JAMMU, Sept 22: A Division Bench of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh comprising of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sindhu Sharma has allowed a month’s time to the Secretary, General Administration Department (GAD), Principal Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor, Financial Commissioner (Additional Chief Secretary) Home Department, ADGP Jammu Zone, Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Chief Executive Officer, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, SSP Reasi, SDPO Bhawan and SHO P/S Bhawan for filing response in a Public Interest Litigation seeking directions to the Government for making public the inquiry report of 3 Members Committee constituted to look into the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan in the intervening night of December 31st ,2021 and January 1st, 2022 which resulted into the unfortunate death of 12 devotees and injuries to several others.
These directions were issued in a PIL field by Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed through Advocate H A Siddiqui wherein the public-spirited lawyer has sought directions to the UT Administration and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board to fix the accountability of the delinquent officers/officials who remained remiss in the performance of their duties on the fateful night.
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 headed by Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal observed, 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.
“As prayed for, a month’s time is allowed to him and if necessary, he may file comprehensive reply”, the DB said. The DB on the prayer of Advocate Adarsh Sharma appearing for Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board 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.
When this PIL came up for hearing, Senior Advocate A V Gupta with Advocate H A Siddiqui submitted that the instant PIL highlights the issue of wide public importance as 12 devotees lost their lives in the Holy Shrine because of the negligence on the part of the officers/officials of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board who miserably failed to perform their lawful duties on the fateful night and unfortunately the accountability was not fixed in the matter for the reasons best known to the authorities at the helm of affairs.
They argued that the Lieutenant Governor, who is Chairman of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, on January 1st, 2022 constituted a 3 members Inquiry Panel headed by the then Principal Secretary Home to look into the unfortunate incident and to examine in detail the causes/reasons behind the incident and to suggest the appropriate SOPs and measures for preventing recurrence of such incidents in future.
“Almost 9 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”, they further submitted.