Earlier, the Supreme Court had given the green signal to the annual Rath Yatra held in Puri, Odisha. On 22 June 2020, the Court imposed some restrictions on carrying out the event. The Court opined the imposition of a curfew in Puri starting at 8 PM on 22 June itself.
Brief Facts of the Case
On June 18, the SC had stayed this year’s Rath Yatra in light of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state. The bench comprised of CJI SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Dinesh Maheshwari pronounced this order.
The bench suggested that annual Rath Yatra can be allowed subject to limited participation. But the bench observed that it is “impossible” to ensure there would be no assembly of devotees at the event.
After the Court’s June 18 order, the Centre, as well as, the State of Odisha, approached the Supreme Court. Both stood in support of carrying out the Rath Yatra. However, they suggested some restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
After hearing the parties, the bench allowed conduction of the Rath Yatra. The Court asked the state and the Centre to coordinate with the Jagannath Temple administration. The Supreme Court stated that there is no reason to cancel the Rath Yatra along its usual route from temple to temple if it is possible to ensure no public attendance.
The Supreme Court, however, altered the authorities that the situation can become dangerous if there is a lack of rules of caution. For this, the Court relied on yatra conducted in the 18-19th century. At that time, the Yatra resulted in the spread of cholera and plague “like wildfire”.
The Court subjected the order to the following conditions for allowing the Rath Yatra from June 23:
– The Court ordered a curfew and a lockdown in Puri. For this, the Odisha government shall impose a curfew in the City of Puri during all the procession of Rath Yatra.
– Only those who test COVID-19 negative can perform the ritual and pull chariots that too with an interval. Moreover, there should be compliance with the social distancing protocols with as little participation as possible.
– The primary responsibility for conducting the Rath Yatra in accordance with the conditions be that of the committee in charge of the Puri Jagannath Temple administration. Also, the State Government may take such help as may be found necessary from the Union Government.
– The telecast of Rath Yatra shall be freely covered by the visual media. And lastly, the most important one to maintain a record of participants in light of the ongoing pandemic.
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