SC allows Puri Rath Yatra sans devotees, leaves micro-management to Odisha govt

SC allows Puri Rath Yatra sans devotees, leaves micro-management to Odisha govt

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday gave nod to Jagannath Rath Yatra in Puri andy modified its own order of June 18, which had stayed the Yatra due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The yatra is scheduled to begin from Tuesday.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, said the state government will coordinate with the temple management and Centre to hold the yatra.

The court made it clear that state government is free to stop the festivities in case it endangers public health and safety. “We aren’t asking the state you should do it but we are only allowing this to be done on certain conditions,” the bench said.

During the hearing, Odisha government, through senior advocate Harish Salve, told the bench that Rath Yatra can be confined to Puri alone in a limited way without the public attendance as proposed by Gajapati Maharaj of Puri, and the State will endeavour to make necessary arrangements.

At this, the CJI said “won’t micromanage it”. “We will leave it to the wisdom of the State, which may conduct it as per its guidelines.”

“Clearly any spread of Covid-19 due to this will be disastrous since a large number of people are involved and it won’t be possible to track everyone after they go back home,” the bench said in its detailed order.

During the hearing, Centre suggested that the Odisha administration can impose a curfew for a day to prevent people from attending the Rath Yatra.

“All ‘sebayats’ and ‘pandas’ who have tested negative for COVID-19 can participate in rituals as may be decided by Puri 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,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench.

Fearing huge congregation of devotees during Rath Yatra, which may rapidly spread the coronavirus infection among people, the apex court on June 18 ordered to stall the Rath Yatra in Puri by saying, “Lord Jagannath won’t forgive us if we allow it.”

Following top court’s order, petitions were filed in the court seeking modification in its order and allowing the Rath Yatra only in Puri.

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