A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court stayed the annual Rath Yatra held in Puri, Odisha in view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state.
"A procession of this magnitude cannot be permitted at the time of a pandemic," a bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Dinesh Maheshwari noted on Thursday, 18 June, as reported by Bar and Bench.
“The annual Rath Yatra, this year, is scheduled for 23 June. 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
The PIL was filed by an Odisha NGO Odisha Vikas Parishad that was reportedly seeking a stay on the celebration of the annual Rath Yatra, stating that the Odisha government had been allowing rituals to take place till date. The plea had also cited the instance of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi and the number of cases it spawned.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, reportedly urged the court to allow some other ceremony in lieu of the Rath Yatra, however, the apex court noted that, ”We have experience that anytime something is allowed, people gather.”
“Thus, in order to avoid any similar instances of outbreak of COVID-19 cases, a religious gathering in the nature of Rath Yatra festival ought to be avoided,” the court observed.