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Ganga Sagar Mela: HC asks state to file affidavit on Covid preventive measures

Ganga Sagar Mela: HC asks state to file affidavit on Covid preventive measures

Kolkata: Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed the state government to file an affidavit in connection with the Ganga Sagar Mela arrangement keeping in mind COVID-19 protocol. The next hearing will be held on Friday.

A Division bench, comprising Chief Justice T B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee, during the hearing of a PIL filed by Ajay Kumar De requesting cancellation of Ganga Sagar Mela 2021 in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, said : "We direct the State Government to have a report in the form of an affidavit placed on record through a Medical Officer at the highest level in the State Government service, clearly delineating the modalities of the preventive management of the situation if Ganga Sagar Mela is permitted to be held this year." It will be upto the State Government to come out with clear suggestions as to how the Mela could be regulated, controlled or if necessary, even dropped for the current year taking into consideration the current scenario.

The Ganga Sagar Mela Act was brought in 1976. The Act empowers the State Government to issue a notification declaring the whole or any portion of the Sagar Islands as "notified area" for the purpose of that Act.

The situation, sought to be controlled through that legislation and notification, is one which provides for taking measures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of the pilgrims who are likely to be endangered at the Ganga Sagar Mela in Sagar Islands.

As per Section 4 of the Act, the state has the power to impose a fee upon every pilgrim visiting the Ganga Sagar Mela. The Calcutta High Court observed that lakhs of people take dip at the Ganga Sagar on the occasion of Pous Sankranti, increasing the probability of spread of Coronavirus (contamination of water through droplets). It could be made symbolic if Ganga Sagar water is provided in small bottles to the pilgrims.

"The Division Bench will hear matters at 2 pm on Friday," said Sabyasachi Chatterjee, advocate of the petitioner.

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