Top Court gives nod to Puri Rath Yatra under strict conditions

JagnnathNEW DELHI : The Supreme Court, on Monday, allowed the Lord Jagannath Yatra of Puri to be held with certain restrictions. The top court said, “Puri rath yatra will be held with coordination of temple committee, state and central govt without compromising with a health issue.”
The top court , however, added that “the state can even stop the yatra or festivities if they feel it is going out of hand.”CJI S.A. Bobde had said the Supreme Court is only considering conducting the Yatra in Puri and not anywhere else in Odisha.
Puri’s famous rath yatra can be conducted this year but in a restricted fashion — with curfew and closed city entries, the Supreme Court said today, after petitions asking it to recall its earlier order, banning the hugely popular festival.
The state government will have to declare curfew whenever the chariots are pulled. It also has to ensure that each of the three chariots is pulled by a maximum of 500 people, which would include the police personnel and officials, the court said.

“There shall be an interval of one hour between two chariots. Each of those engaged in pulling the chariot shall maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra.” The court said as part of the detailed guidelines.
The seven-day festival, attended by lakhs of people, is slated to begin tomorrow and the temple administration has been tasked with ensuring that all restrictions are being followed.
Soon after the initial comments of the court, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik tweeted saying “Jai Jagannath”, and hashtag #RathYatra became a top twitter trend. Odisha has already declared a curfew-like shutdown that would begin at 9 pm and continue till 2 pm tomorrow.
The Rath Yatra from the Jagannath temple – the biggest temple of the Lord Jagannath in the coastal district of Puri — is attended by lakhs of people from across the world. But in view of the highly contagious coronavirus outbreak, the court had ordered a ban on the festival this year, saying “Such gatherings can’t take place at the time of the pandemic”.
Earlier today, offering to impose curfew for a day to ensure that the virus does not spread, the Centre had said Rath Yatra is a “matter of faith for crores” and a ritual “going on for centuries cannot be interfered with”.
“Only people tested negative (for coronavirus) and working in the Lord Jagannath temple can be part of the ritual… If Lord Jagannath will not come out tomorrow, he cannot come out for 12 years as per tradition,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre, had told the Supreme Court.
In the evening, Chief Justice SA Bobde, who heard the case through vidoconference from Nagpur, said, “The Supreme Court is only considering conducting the Rath Yatra in Puri and not anywhere else in Orissa”.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde was informed by the Odisha government that it will coordinate with the temple management and the Center to make things smooth during Rath Yatra, which is attended by lakhs to people from around the world, and ensure compliance with health guidelines in view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
While hearing a PIL filed by NGO ‘Odisha Vikash Parishad’ the apex court on June 18 had said that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens, this year’s Puri Rath Yatra cannot be allowed and that “Lord Jagannath won’t forgive us if we allow” it. A day after the order was passed, some applications were filed in the top court seeking recall and modification of its order.
These applications, including those filed by ‘Jagannath Sanskruti Jana Jagarana Manch’ and BJP leader Sambit Patra, urged the court to allow the Rath Yatra with certain restrictions due to the pandemic.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheswari and A S Bopanna, was informed by the Centre that Rath Yatra can be conducted without compromising on citizen’s health and with co-operation of state and temple trust.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Odisha government said that the Yatra or the procession will not be conducted in the entire state. The bench said that it is only considering holding of the Yatra in Puri and not anywhere else in Odisha. Salve said the chariot can be pulled by ‘shebaits‘ or police personnel who have tested negative for COVID-19.
Three heavily-built wooden chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra are traditionally pulled by thousands of devotees over a distance of three kilometres twice during the nine-day festival of the Trinity at Puri.
(With Agency Inputs ).


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