New Delhi: In context of health hazards associated with Rath Yatra in Puri against the backdrop of coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court on Monday said that it was “informed that in the 18th-19th century a yatra of this kind was responsible for the spread of cholera and plague like wildfire”.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and A.S. Bopanna said: “We say this in order to remind the authorities concerned that the situation can become dangerous if the rules of caution are ignored.”
The top court, however, clarified it does not have the official copy of the gazette with the information that in the 18th-19th century, a yatra of this kind was responsible for the spread of cholera and plague like wildfire.
The bench noted that any spread of coronavirus due to the Rath Yatra would be disastrous due to the large number of persons and the impossibility of tracking all the infected people after they have gone back to their respective homes.
On June 18, the apex court put a stay on the Rath Yatra against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. After this order, many applications were moved in the top court including a plea by BJP leader Sambit Patra to allow the Rath Yatra.
Citing this order, the bench said in the earlier order, it had suggested to the parties that the procession of chariots, i.e., the Rath Yatra itself, could be allowed to proceed, however, without the general congregation which participates in this Yatra.
“We were informed that it would be well nigh impossible to ensure that there is no congregation. This Court was, therefore, left with no option but to grant an injunction restraining the Rath Yatra itself. However, we find, in one of the present applications, an affidavit filed on behalf of the State of Orissa stating that it might be possible to conduct the Rath Yatra at Puri ‘in a limited way without public attendance’,” said the bench, citing the proposal by Gajapati Maharaj of Puri, who is the Chairman of the Puri Jagannath temple administration.
The bench observed indeed, if it is possible to ensure that there is no public attendance, they see no reason why the Rath Yatra cannot be conducted safely along its usual route from temple to temple.