The Supreme Court of India on April 16, 2018 struck down the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that had declared the Amarnath cave shrine as a ‘silence zone’ and prohibited religious offerings such as chanting of hymns and ringing bells beyond the entry point.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta stayed the NGT order while hearing a plea filed by the Amarnath Shrine Board against the order on the ground that a decision in a case could not be based on grounds outside the pleading of the parties.
The Amarnath Shrine Board had challenged the NGT order in the apex court, arguing that the green tribunal cannot pass orders on the Amarnath shrine while hearing a plea related to stopping the use of horses and ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine premises in Jammu.
The judges’ bench stated that the National Green Tribunal had exceeded its jurisdiction in giving the order.
• The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had on December 13, 2017 declared the eco-sensitive Amarnath cave shrine as a ‘silence zone’ and prohibited religious offerings like chanting of hymns and ringing bells beyond the entry point.
• The direction was an effort aimed at preserving the shrine and its ecosystem, as the tribunal felt it would be helpful in preventing avalanches and maintaining its pristine nature.
• The tribunal also declared that nobody would be permitted to carry bring anything from the stairs leading to the sacred cave and everybody should be properly checked at the entry point.
• It also called for the removal of the iron grills in front of the Shiva Linga in order to allow the pilgrims a better view of the structure, apart from asking for a reduction of noise around the structure.
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• The tribunal also banned pilgrims from carrying any personal belonging including phones beyond the last checkpoint and asked the shrine board to construct a place for keeping devotees valuables.
• The Amarnath cave temple, situated in the Himalayas in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, is considered as one of the most holy places for Hindus.
• The cave is covered with snow most of the year barring a short period of time in summer when it is opened for pilgrims.
Besides, the Supreme Court ordered a stay on another NGT order, in which it had imposed a fine of Rs 50 lakh on the Jammu and Kashmir government for not finalising the rehabilitation plan for horses and mules that have been barred from plying from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple.
The tribunal had earlier said that a new path should be created to the shrine exclusively for the pedestrians and battery-operated cars and directed that no horses or mules would be allowed on the new route to the shrine.