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Odishatv Bureau

New Delhi/ Bhubaneswar: In a historic decision, the Supreme Court of India has stalled 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 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.

SC's order which comes almost after a month of war-footing preparations initiated by the State government for the grand event this year has now sparked severe reactions from various quarters of servitor communities, political parties, and experts.

Senior servitor Binayak Das Mohapatra alleged conspiracy of Odisha government behind cancellation of Rath Yatra.

Senior servitor Haladhar Das Mohapatra has urged the apex court to reconsider the matter by taking recommendations from all stakeholders.

Leader of Opposition in State Assembly, Pradipta Kumar Naik blamed Odisha government for cleverly passing the buck over the issue. The government never took any sincere approach to conduct Rath Yatra and it indirectly stalled the festival without even allowing others to present their stand.

"Chariot pulling rituals could have been completed much like the same way other nitis of the Holy Trinity performed this year amid Covid pandemic but the development clearly shows the incapacitance of the State government and how it indirectly approached the top court to stop the festival and also save itself from criticism," said Naik.

Congress MLA Tara Prasad Bahinipati also criticised Odisha govt over the development. The State government has finally become successful in its plan to stop Rath Yatra. It was fearing to hold the festival and hence, sought a judgement of Supreme Court," said  Bahinipati.

Speaking to media over the cancellation of Rath Yatra, Puri Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb said, "It is responsibility to follow the order of the apex court in letter and spirit. A meeting of the temple management committee will be soon called to discuss the matter. Since Rath Yatra cannot be held outside due to the top court's order, we will also discuss with the Shankaracharya to see if any rituals can be held inside the 12-century premises."

The Supreme Court's order meanwhile has evoked mixed reactions from the common man across Odisha. A resident of Jeypore termed the decision as historic and said people should look into it more as a public welfare measure even though it has led to a disruption in centuried-old tradition.

Senior servitor Damodar Padhani informed that a review petition can be filed over the matter in a day or two and if the apex court changes its stance, Rath Yatra can still be held. State government should file a review plea and we will also approach the court to reconsider its decision.

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 also clarified that the decision regarding holding of Rath Yatra was 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.

Read More: Rath Yatra To Be Limited To Temple Premises In Baladevjew & Several Other Shrines In Odisha

Lord Jagannath & His Siblings Recover From Fever; Decision On Puri Rath Yatra Likely Today

Puri Rath Yatra Cancellation Will Be A Dark Episode In History: Lord Jagannath’s Badagrahi

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