Vaishno Devi shrine: Panel formed for mule operators' rehab, SC told

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New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Thursday was informed that a sub-committee has been formed to expedite the consultation process for rehabilitation plan for people engaged in carrying pilgrims on horses and mules from Katra base to the hilltop Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, an activity now barred.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Vaishno Devi Shrine told a bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur that the sub-committee's first meeting was held 10 days back.

The Governor of Jammu and Kashmir was changed on August 21 and now the second and last meeting was scheduled on Thursday, Rohatgi told the bench.

The sub-committee includes advisors to Governor B.B. Vyas and K. Vijay Kumar and Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam.

All the stakeholders were called, including shrine and mules owners, advocate Shoeb Alam appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir told the court.

The counsel sought 10 days time to file an affidavit containing details of the decision taken in the meeting.

The bench, also comprising Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Deepak Gupta, granted two weeks to Jammu and Kashmir to file an affidavit on its plan to rehabilitate mules owners. It posted the case for hearing on September 20.

Earlier, the apex court had sought a plan to phase out the use of mules and rehabilitation of mule owners.

The National Green Tribunal had earlier said that a new path should be constructed to the shrine exclusively meant for pedestrians and battery-operated cars and directed that no horses/mules would be allowed on the new route.