SC declines to hear plea on Joshimath crisis, says HC should handle it as matter of principle

A worker looks at cracks that appeared in a PWD Guest House, in land subsidence affected area in Joshimath: PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea seeking the court's intervention to declare the crisis in Uttarakhand's subsidence-hit Joshimath a national disaster, saying since the state high court is seized of a "broad range of issues" it should hear it as a matter of principle.

As the lawyer for the petitioner submitted that people in Joshimath are dying, the top court told him curtly,"You don't want to use these proceedings for sound bytes in social media."

A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala asked petitioner Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati to approach the Uttarakhand High Court with his petition.

"As a matter of principle, we should allow the High Court to deal with this. High Court is seized of a broad range of issues, we'll give you liberty to approach the High Court.

"The specific aspects which have been highlighted in these proceedings can be addressed before the high court for suitable redressal. We accordingly permit the petitioners either to institute a substantive petition before the high court so that it can be together with pending proceedings or intervene in the pending matter. The high court is requested to consider the grievance," the bench said.

The counsel for the Uttarakhand government submitted all the points raised by the petitioner have already been acted upon.

Senior advocate Sushil Kumar Jain, appearing for the petitioner, said people are dying and urgent steps are needed for relief and rehabilitation of those affected by ground subsidence.

The bench then remarked,"You don't want to use these proceedings for sound bytes in social media, what you want is relief for affected persons."

The apex court asked the petitioner to approach the high court with his petition.

Joshimath, the gateway to famous pilgrimage sites like Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib and international skiing destination Auli, appears on the edge of a precipice with gaping cracks appearing on buildings, roads and public facilities. The state government faces an uphill task providing relief and rehabilitating the affected families in brutal winter.

The petitioner has contended subsidence in swathes of the town has occurred due to large-scale industrialisation and sought immediate financial assistance and compensation.

The plea has also sought direction to the National Disaster Management Authority to actively support the residents of Joshimath in these challenging times.

"No development is needed at the cost of human life and their ecosystem and if any such thing is to happen, then it is the duty of the State and Union government to stop the same immediately at war level," the plea by the Seer said.

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