SC stays annual Rath Yatra at Puri's Jagannath Temple this year amid coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic
In wake of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the annual Rath Yatra at the Jagannath Temple in Odisha's Puri and all activities related to it on June 23. The Chief Justice (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde said, "Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow it."
The apex court further said that such gatherings can't take place at the time of the pandemic. In the interest of public health and safety of citizens, Rath Yatra can't be allowed this year, added the SC. The court also said that the Rath Yatra will not be held anywhere in Odisha in 2020 to avoid large gathering that could spread pandemic.
On June 15, a petition was moved in the SC by an NGO seeking direction to stay on the Rath Yatra. The petitioner, NGO Odisha Vikas Parishad, had stated that if the Rath Yatra is allowed, then COVID-19 infection will increase manifold. It sought an immediate order directing the respondents, including the Odisha government, not to grant any permission for holding the Rath Yatra till the disposal of the accompanying writ petition.
A religious congregation of such nature will be dangerous, which has been specifically prohibited by the state government vide its guidelines of June 1 and 6, the NGO stated in the petition. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) vide its guideline of May 30, also stated if any congregation will be allowed, it will lead to severe catastrophic results and it will be very difficult on the part of the authorities to control the spread of virus thereafter, the petitioner stated.
Thus, keeping in mind the interests of the general public at large, it would be apposite to postpone the Rath Yatra festival and further continue for a period of 10-12 days thereafter, it added. Meanwhile, in Odisha, the construction of Raths for the Yatra are underway in full swing after the temple administration decided to take out the Yatra under Section 144 imposition, without the presence of devotees. Odisha government has restricted religious congregations till June 30.