NewDelhi:18/6/20: The Lord Jagannath rath yatra and activities connected to it will not be allowed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court said today. “Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allowed the rath yatra,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said while hearing a petition seeking to defer the rath yatra in Odisha’s Puri which is scheduled to start on June 23.
“Such gatherings can’t take place at the time of the pandemic,” the Supreme Court said, referring to the advice by health professionals to maintain social distancing as the highly infectious coronavirus can spread via respiratory droplets and surface contact. The risk increases manifold in a crowded environment.
The court said it cannot allow the rath yatra this year “in the interest of public health and safety of citizens”.
A non-profit, Odisha Vikas Parishad, in its petition, said the annual rath yatra in the coastal district in Odisha will draw some 10 lakh people and the religious event goes on for 10-12 days.
The rath yatra amid the COVID-19 pandemic “will be an invitation to infect lakhs of devotees”, the petition said, adding the Odisha government has also not allowed religious places to open before June 30.
The non-profit, represented by former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, said allowing the rath yatra would violate the state government’s order.
“This is a serious matter,” the Chief Justice said. “Even if there are only 10,000 people (in the event), it is also a serious thing,” the Chief Justice said.
The Odisha government today said it will abide by the order given by the Supreme Court on Ratha Jatra this year. The decision was taken at the State Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at Lok Seva Bhawan here today evening.
Earlier in the day, the apex court ordered there will be no Ratha Jatra anywhere in Puri of Odisha or in any other part of the State this year.
The SC further directed that there shall be no activities secular or religious associated with the Ratha Jatra which was scheduled to be held from June 23, 2020.