Puri rath yatra, Supreme Court
Puri rath yatra, Supreme Court
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[Breaking] "Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow it", Supreme Court stays annual Rath Yatra in Puri due to COVID-19

Debayan Roy

In view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state, the Supreme Court today stayed the annual Rath Yatra held in Puri, Odisha.

While staying this year's Rath Yatra, the three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Dinesh Maheshwari noted,

"A procession of this magnitude cannot be permitted at the time of a pandemic."

Dinesh Maheshwari, CJI SA Bobde, and AS Bopanna
Dinesh Maheshwari, CJI SA Bobde, and AS Bopanna

"The annual Rath Yatra this year is scheduled for June 23. The festivities usually go on for 20 days. Having regard to the danger and public safety of citizens, we direct State of Odisha to not conduct any Rath Yatra this year. There shall be no activity associated with the rath yatra during this period. Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allow it."

Supreme Court

An Odisha-based rights organisation had moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the possible celebration of the annual Rath Yatra at Puri's Jagannath Temple on June 23, in the backdrop of increasing COVID-19 cases.

Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, states in the order that "Article 25 of the Constitution of India itself confers the right to freely profess and propagate religionsubject to health".

Odisha Vikas Parishad, through Advocate Ranjeeta Rohatgi, had stated in its plea that all the rituals leading up to the Rath Yatra such as ‘Akshay Trutiya' and ‘Snana Purnima' have been allowed to be performed by the Odisha state government.

Thus, the petitioner apprehended that there was a possibility that the Rath Yatra, which draws in lakhs of people, will also be allowed to take place.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, urged the Court that some other ritual instead of the Rath Yatra can be permitted. However, Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the state of Odisha apprised the Court of the dangers of congregation if any celebration is held.

Before ultimately staying this year's celebration, the Court noted,

"We have experience that anytime something is allowed, people gather."

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