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SC refuses to entertain plea seeking intervention to declare Joshimath subsidence natural disaster

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea seeking the top court's intervention to declare Joshimath subsidence, a natural disaster.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala permitted the petitioner to approach the Uttarakhand High Court with the plea. The apex court was hearing a plea seeking immediate intervention by the top court to direct the Centre to assist in reparation work and providing of urgent relief to people of Joshimath in Uttarakhand, who are living in fear in the wake of a landslide and subsidence.
"High Court can suitably redress the grievances including rehabilitation of the affected people," the apex court said while permitting Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, a religious leader, to approach the High Court.
The apex court's order came after it noted that the petition on the same issue is pending before the Uttarakhand High Court.
The plea before the top court seeks to stop the development of the Tapovan project and the protection of religious sites.
The bench noted that on January 12, 2023, a division bench of the High Court passed directions in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which was filed during the glacial flooding of February 2021. The plea before High Court sought to restrain the construction of the Tapovan hydropower project till the early warning system is in place, noted the apex court.
The plea filed by Swami sought a direction to declare the current incidents of landslide, subsidence, land sinking, land burst and cracks in the land and properties as a national disaster and direct the National Disaster Management Authority to support the residents of Joshimath at this time.
Several families were evacuated from Joshimath after cracks appeared in their houses in the wake of the subsidence.
The petition sought to provide immediate financial assistance and compensation to the people of Uttarakhand, who have lost their houses and land to subsidence.
"In the name of and/or for the cause of development the respondents have no right to push the people in the mouth of death and the religious sacred town in extinction and thereby infringe the fundamental right of the people of the Joshimath including the petitioner as well as inmates of his Monastery guaranteed under article 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India," it stated.
The entire mess of environmental, ecological and geological disturbances occurred due to large-scale manly intervention in the form of Industrialisation, urbanization and destruction of natural resources by the Union and State government in the State of Uttarakhand, the petition stated further.
It added, "No development is needed at the cost of human life and their ecosystem and if anything such is happening it is the duty of the State and Union government to stop the same immediately at war level."
"Direct Centre, National Disaster Management Authority, Uttarakhand to take effective and proactive steps to protect the spiritual and religious and cultural places of Hindus including Sikhs at Joshimath; especially the Jyotirmath and adjoining sacred shrines/temples wherein deities are being worshipped since time immemorial," the plea read.
"Direct the respondents to immediately stop construction and building work of the Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Electric, Project tunnel and not to begin again till the high-level committee of geologists, hydrologists and engineers constituted by this court," it added.
After land subsidence in the Joshimath area of Uttarakhand's Chamoli, cracks have also started to appear in houses in Sharana Chai village of Uttarakhand's Chamoli district.
Multiple cracks appeared on houses on Sunday. "Natural calamities like cloud bursts occur more often," Dalip Singh Pawar, one of the residents, said while talking to ANI.
"In case of low magnitude earthquake whole village will be severely affected," said another resident.
"Today, Joshimath is on the brink of collapse, tomorrow the whole of Uttarakhand will be destroyed," he added.
Disaster Management Secretary Ranjit Kumar Sinha on Sunday inspected the landslide-affected areas in Uttarakhand's Joshimath and said that there has been an uptick in the number of cracks, but no new areas have faced damages.
The Secretary inspected areas including Auli Ropeway, Manohar Bagh, Shankaracharya Math, JP Colony along with geologists and senior officials.
Speaking to ANI, Sinha said that the teams are conducting tests to ascertain if there is any particular pattern of developing cracks.
"Relief and rescue operations are being conducted. There has been an uptick in the number of cracks in some places. Cracks haven't developed in new areas. There is a minor increase in the cracks of approx 1 mm but we are monitoring them. We are also finding a pattern so that in the future there is no damage. All teams are conducting tests whether there is any pattern developing of the cracks. After the tests, we will take action based on them. The cracks have increased, but there is nothing to worry about," he said. (ANI)

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