SC sets aside NGT order that put restrictions on chanting Mantras in Amarnath temple

The Supreme Court has set aside an order by the National Green Tribunal that had imposed several restrictions on pilgrims visiting the Maha Shivlinga at Amarnath Dham. The NGT order that was passed last year stated that devotees cannot chant mantras and hymns inside the cave shrine.

The Amarnath cave is a major religious shrine for Hindus inside which a natural Shivlinga is formed every year. Thousands of devotees make the arduous journey every year to the cave shrine located in south Kashmir for a glimpse of the Shivlinga. The NGT order had sparked quite a controversy last year and people have criticised it as restrictions on Hindus and their faith.

According to Reports, the Supreme Court, while quashing the order has stated that the December order should not have been passed by the NGT on a petition that does not concern the Amarnath cave shrine. A bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta stated that due procedure needed to be followed and asked petitioner Gauri Mulekhi to file an appropriate petition with regard to pollution at the cave.

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Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for the Amarnath Shrine Board and stated that the NGThas ‘jumped the gun’ and had imposed restrictions on the chanting of Mantras, carrying of Prasad and usage of mules to reach the shrine.

The bench also asked advocate Krishna Venugopal, who represented petitioner Gauri Mulekhi, on why a proper application cannot be moved on the issue. The bench also observed that the devotees can get Prasad at the cave instead of carrying it all the way. Advocate Venugopal reportedly stated that the NGT had not declared the entire area a silence zone and its only concern was the use of mules, due to which pollution was being caused in the area.

Advocate Rohatgi further argued that the petition did not specifically talk about the pollution at the Amarnath cave but also about the Vaishno Devi temple near Jammu.

The Supreme Court bench reportedly remarked that there is a procedure that needs to be followed and asked the petitioners to file a fresh petition specific to the Amarnath shrine while setting aside its December order.

The NGT had clarified earlier that it had neither intended nor declared the entire area a ‘silence zone’ and had only imposed restrictions on chanting Mantras while standing before the Shivlinga. It added that the direction was required to maintain the ‘sanctity and pristine conditions’ and ensure that there is no adverse effect on the Shivalinga due to  ‘heat, noise and vibrations.’

About 15,000 devotees visit the cave shrine every day in the summer months when the Dripping water from the cave roof forms a giant Shivlinga in the high altitude cave every year.

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