Patra, in his plea, has sought permission from the apex court for holding the yatra without congregation of devotees by using services of Lord Jagannath’s 800 sevayats, all of whom have tested negative for Covid-19.
Many application have been moved in the apex court on behalf of individuals and NGOs seeking permission for the Rath Yatra without any congregation. The apex court is likely to hear the matters on Monday.
The famous yatra was to start from the Jagannath Temple on June 23. However, now there will be no chariot pulling of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra and all other activities associated with the annual programme also stand cancelled.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and A.S. Bopanna took the step amid rising cases of the coronavirus in the country.
The Chief Justice said such gatherings cannot take place during the ongoing pandemic. “Lord Jagannath won’t forgive us if we allow it.”
The bench held that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens, the Rath Yatra festival cannot be allowed this year. “Article 25 of the Constitution itself confers the right to freely profess and propagate religion subject to health,” said the court.
“We accordingly direct that there shall be no Rath Yatra anywhere in the temple town of Odisha or in any other part of the state this year. We further direct that there shall be no activities secular or religious associated with the Rath Yatra during this period,” said the top court.
The observation from the top court came on a plea by an NGO seeking direction to stay the holding of the Rath Yatra festival, which spans 10-12 days, and sees gathering of lakhs of devotees from across the world. “Having regard to the danger presented by such a large gathering of people for the Rath Yatra, we consider it appropriate in the interests of public health and safety of citizens who are devotees to restrain the respondents from holding the Rath Yatra this year,” said the top court.
The plea filed by NGO Odisha Vikas Praishad claimed that presently, the entire nation including Odisha is facing an unprecedented situation due to Covid-19, where the lives of the common people are at a huge risk.