The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Rath Yatra to be conducted at Puri in Odisha with certain restrictions, saying that it will be held in coordination with the Temple committee, state government and the Centre “without compromising the health issues”.
Asking the Centre and the state government to “work in tandem”, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said that a detailed order will be released by evening. The apex court, however, said that the Odisha government can even stop the yatra or festivities “if they feel it is going out of hand”.
The Puri Rath Yatra is a seven day festival that will begin from Tuesday. The top court on June 18 had said that the Rath Yatra cannot be allowed because it was against the interest of public health and safety of citizens.
The court, however, on Monday agreed to hear the pleas seeking modification of its order which stayed this year’s historic Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra in Puri due to the coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile, the Centre told the Supreme Court that Rath Yatra in Puri can be allowed without public participation, adding that the “tradition of centuries may not be stopped”. The Centre further said that besides maintaining precautions, the state government can impose curfew for a day.
“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,” said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta
“All ‘sebayats’ and ‘pandas’ who have tested negative (for COVID-19) can participate in rituals as may be decided by HH Shri Shankaracharya. People may not congregate and seek blessings on TV during live telecast. Raja of Puri and the temple committee may supervise arrangements of these rituals,” Mehta added.
The application filed by ‘Jagannath Sanskruti Jana Jagarana Manch’ had sought modification of the June 18 order, saying the festival is deeply associated with the religious beliefs of millions of devotees of Lord Jagannath and it is “not impossible and impracticable” for the state and district administration to conduct the yatra by maintaining social distancing and following the Centre’s guidelines.
Besides that, a separate application seeking modification of the June 18 order has been filed by one Aftab Hossen, who has said that “as per the ritual of Lord Jagannath, the Rath Yatra is performed every year and if one year it is not performed, same cannot be performed for the next 12 years”.