National News

Rath Yatra 2020 Cancelled In Odisha, Supreme Court Stalls Festival In Wake Of Covid-19 Pandemic

In a historic decision, the Supreme Court of India has cancelled the centuries-old annual Rath Yatra this year in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

An SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde while hearing a plea seeking cancellation of the festival this year ruled, “We consider it appropriate that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens to restrain the respondents from holding the Rath Yatra this year. We direct that no Rath Yatra 2020 will be held in temple areas of Odisha.”

Hearing a plea filed by Odisha Vikash Parishad, CJI noted, “Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allow this to continue. Activities related to the Rath Yatra is injuncted.”

CJI further orders that no secular or religious activity associated with the Rath Yatra will take place this year. The matter has been listed for hearing after 4 weeks.

Solicitor General Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the petitioner during the hearing submitted that a congregation of lakhs of people cannot be allowed for the yatra amid the Covid-19 pandemic. “It will be impossible to contain such a large gathering. Even the Olympics have been postponed this year,” said the SG.

As per the legal news website, Live Law, intervenors repeatedly asked the CJI for the rituals to be allowed to continue as they are religious in nature.

While SG Tushar Mehta appearing for the Union Government says as the sensitivity of the matter requires that some rituals should be allowed. However, the CJI refused to entertain the submission saying “The word ‘juggernaut’ comes from Jagannath; a juggernaut cannot be stopped. So, Lord Jagannath cannot be stopped by this.”

Advocate Hitendra Ratha says senior lawyer Harish Salve appearing for Odisha submitted that conduct of festival might create huge public gathering & law and order situation but he never mentioned about any alternative way to pull chariots by elephants or machines.

Amid the enforcement of Covid lockdown, as uncertainty prevailed over the festival right from the beginning of the festivities during Chandan Yatra sparking speculations, the State government the Home Ministry allowed the construction of chariots for the festival on May 7.

The Home Ministry has also clarified that the decision regarding holding of Rath Yatra is to be taken by the State Government keeping in view the conditions prevailing during the festival.

Thereafter, the chariot works commenced almost a week after the usual date of the construction process which begins from the day of Chandan Yatra festival.

Odisha High Court too asked the State government to complete the chariot construction on a war footing by June 23 and the order forced the administration to deploy carpenters to finish the job. Sources said the chariot construction had reached the last phases and was scheduled to be completed in a day or two.

Snana Purnima ritual, the prelude to the Car Festival was also completed in a disciplined but subdued manner in the wake of Covid outbreak. The administration clamped section 144 in Puri town to ensure the festival was held without the participation of devotees.

Puri Gajapati on May 30 also informed that the Rath Yatra will be held without devotees.

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