SC refuses to allow Rath Yatra in Puri

The Supreme Court stayed this year’s Puri Rath Yatra, which is attended by lakhs of people from across the world and was to start from June 23, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said “Lord Jagannath won’t forgive us if we allow” it.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices Dineesh Maheshwari and A S Bopanna said that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens, this year’s Rath Yatra at Puri in Odisha can’t be allowed.

The bench asked the Odisha government not to allow the yatra or pilgrimage procession and the related activities anywhere in the state to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

While the Rath Yatra festival, held over 10-12 days with lakhs of people participating, was scheduled for June 23, the 'Bahuda Jatra' (return car festival) was fixed for July 1.

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.

A counsel appearing for an intervenor said the Odisha government has issued a notification that there shall be no public gathering till June 30. However, the bench said that it is staying the festival starting from June 23. The top court’s order came on a PIL filed by the Odishabased NGO seeking cancellation or postponement of this yea’'s Rath Yatra.

The top court noted in its order that it is not disputed that the number of people, likely to gather for the annual Rath Yatra scheduled to be held from June 23, 2020, is going to be about 10 to 12 lakhs and the festivities normally continue for a period of 10 to 12 days.

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