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SC allows Puri ‘Rath Yatra’ with restrictions, to be held with coordination of state, Centre, temple trust

On June 18, a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and AS Bopanna had disallowed the ‘Rath Yatra’ this year saying ‘Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allowed the rath yatra’.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the ‘Rath Yatra’ to be conducted in Odisha’s Puri amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, but with certain restrictions.

The apex court allowed the Odisha government and Jagannath Temple trust to decide on conducting the annual ‘rath yatra’.

It ordered that the Puri Rath Yatra will be held with the coordination of temple committee, state and Central government without compromising on health issue.

However, Chief Justice SA Bobde during the hearing, made it clear that the Supreme Court is only considering conducting the yatra in Puri and not anywhere else in Odisha.

The seven-day festival is slated to begin tomorrow.

The Supreme Court had earlier in the day, agreed to hear four petitions seeking modification of its earlier order of June 18, which had stayed the annual ‘Rath Yatra’ in Puri and all other places in Odisha, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Odisha and the Central government were in favour of conducting the ‘Rath Yatra’. The Centre had tols the apex court that it can be held without public participation.

“It is a matter of faith for crores. If Lord Jagannath will not come out tomorrow, he cannot come out for 12 years as per traditions,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre, told the Supreme Court.

“While maintaining the precautions to ensure that the pandemic is not spread further, the state government can impose curfew for a day.”

He emphasized that all sevayats and pandas who are tested negative can participate in rituals as may be decided by Shankracharya. The apex court had earlier banned all related activities to Rath Yatra festival.

“People may not congregate. Rather they can seek blessings on TV during live telecast.

“Raja of Puri and the temple committee may supervise arrangements of the rituals,” Mehta had submitted before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.

BJP leader Sambit Patra had also moved the Supreme Court seeking recall of its June 18 order. Patra in his plea has sought permission from the apex court for holding the yatra without congregation of devotees by using services of Lord Jagannath’s 800 sevayats, all of whom have tested negative for COVID-19.

On June 18, a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and AS Bopanna had disallowed the ‘Rath Yatra’ this year saying “Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allowed the rath yatra”.

The apex court further said that such gatherings cannot take place at a time of the pandemic. It also referred to the advice by health professionals to maintain social distancing as the deadly virus can spread via respiratory droplets and surface contact.

The court said it cannot allow the rath yatra this year “in the interest of public health and safety of citizens”.

Terming it as a “serious matter”, the CJI said, “Even if there are only 10,000 people (in the event), it is also a serious thing”.