The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea seeking the court's immediate intervention to declare the crisis in Uttarakhand's subsidence-hit Joshimath a national disaster, saying since the Uttarakhand High Court is seized of a "broad range of issues" it should hear it as a matter of principle.
A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala asked Swami Avimukteshwaranand to move the Uttarakhand High Court for relief, rehabilitation of affected persons. The petition contended that the land subsidence occurred due to large-scale industrialisation and sought immediate financial assistance and compensation to the affected people.
“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 said.
CJI DY Chandrachud had earlier asked the council to verify if the Uttarakhand High Court had taken note of the matter. The petitioner said that one application has been filed in connection with the 2021 disaster. The CJI said as a matter of principle, the top court should allow the HC to deal with the matter. "High Court is ceased of a broad range of issues, we will give you the liberty to approach HC," the CJI was quoted as saying by the legal website Live Law.
The chief justice said the petition seeks assistance in reparation for Joshimath by the NDMA, to declare it a national disaster, to direct the state to provide rehabilitation, to direct the NTPC power project to provide insurance, to constitute a committee to enquire into efforts of the government for security and rehabilitation of citizens.
He said on 12 Jan 2023, the Uttarakhand HC passed an order. The 2021 accident took place as a result of a glacial burst that led to death and destruction. The CJI said the High Court while entertaining the application underscores the importance of associating experts from fields of geology, landslide, disaster management, etc. He said the state has been strictly banned from carrying out any construction in Joshimath.
Joshimath, the gateway to famous pilgrimage sites like Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib and international skiing destination Auli, is facing a major challenge due to land subsidence. Hill town Joshimath, located at a height of 6,000 feet in the Chamoli district, has been designated a "sinking zone" due to ongoing ground subsidence that has resulted in the development of fractures in numerous homes, roads, and other structures. Over 600 families in Joshimath have been rehabilitated and on an urgent basis the town has been declared a 'landslide subsidence zone', part of the reason being the rapid urbanisation it has undergone in the past few years.
Image source: PTI