The Karnataka High Court on Friday directed the State government to continue the operation of a standard operating procedure (SOP) banning all political rallies and mass gatherings, in context of a petition seeking to halt the Mekedatu Padayatra by the Congress. .A Division Bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Suraj Govindaraj ordered that no rallies, dharnas or political gatherings of any sort should be permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic.During the hearing of the matter on Wednesday, the Court had come down on heavily on both the Congress Party and BJP led government for the rally held by the former at Mekedatu amidst COVID-19 surge.The Court had questioned the the COVID protocol compliance in a padayatra the Congress party was conducting. It had asked the respondents to answer by today whether requisite permissions were taken.On the government's counsel informing today that the padayatra has been suspended, the Bench asked if any government orders were issued regarding the rallies of other political parties. The Court noted the objection of the petitioner of the padayatra only being temporarily suspended and, therefore, stated in its order that the State should strictly follow its SOP in all districts.The Court also made it clear that no such rallies should be permitted during the pandemic..Karnataka Congress Party had called for a rally / padayatra from January 9, 2022 demanding construction of a reservoir in Mekedatu to address Bengaluru's water needs. Supporters were invited from small towns and districts. The padayatra starting from Ramanagara district is intended to cover 15 kilometers.The petitioner, one Nagendra Prasad AV, argued that there is a huge spike of COVID cases in the midst of which Congress party has requested volunteers from various districts to participate in the rally.It was pointed out that people who come for the rally will go back to their respective districts spreading the virus to their hometowns..The PIL filed through advocate Shridhar Prabhu had sought a direction to State authorities to not to allow any political rallies, dharnas and protest gatherings and restrain the ruling party in the State going on with the Padayatra given the surge in COVID cases.Senior Counsel Uday Holla appeared for the Congress party while Additional Advocate General R Subramanya represented the Karnataka government.