The Supreme Court has stayed the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) last week’s order which directed that a new path be opened to the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu for pedestrians and battery-operated cars.
On Monday, a bench comprising Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta stayed NGT’s direction after the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board told the apex court that it was not possible to open the new path from November 24.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Board, told the bench that the construction work of the new path was going on and it would be opened in February 2018. He also told the court that two paths to the shrine were already operational and this was the third path which was being built by the Board.
The SC bench also issued notice to the petitioner before the NGT asking 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 would be allowed on the new route. The Green Panel 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 to remove horses and mules from the path to the shrine, saying it was dangerous for pedestrians, especially senior citizens. The petitioner had also expressed concern over the “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.
(With inputs from PTI)