The central government has presented the Rath Yatra issue in front of a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, the centre argues that the Rath Yatra can be held without public participation. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has also said to the apex court that rituals which have been taking place for centuries should not be disrupted.
Today, the Supreme court is expected to hear multiple pleas seeking a modification to an order it had given earlier. The SC on June 18 had stayed Lord Jagannath's Rath Yatra in Odisha.
Amongst the petitions is one by Janardhan Pattajoshi Mahapatra who is the current chief servitor of the Jagannath Temple. Another one is by BJP leader Sambit Patra, he argues that Rath Yatra should be allowed to be held without public participation. Patra had submitted a petition saying that that the yatra should be conducted exclusively with the help of Lord Jagannath's 800 sevayats. These sevayats will perform all the rituals pertaining to the Rath Yatra, including ritual services of Lord Jagannath and other deities at the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha.
The catalyst for the Supreme Court releasing a stay order on the Rath Yatra was a petition filed by an NGO, the petition pointed out the major health risk involved in organising the Rath Yatra, an event in which thousands participate, during a time when COVID-19 is rapidly
spreading across the country. The SC then on June 18, stayed the annual event and all associated activities at the Jagannath Temple. The Rath Yatra was supposed to commence on June 23.
The NGO had referred to The Tablighi Jamaat incident in their petition to the Supreme Court. The Muslim religious congregation held back in mid-March at the Nizamuddin in Delhi had become a COVID-19 hotspot resulting in a spurt in coronavirus case across the country as people
from across India and several other countries had attended the congregation.
The Rath Yatra festival lasts for 10 to 12 days and involves a procession of chariots containing the deities Lord Jagannatha, his brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra. A crowd generally pulls the chariots, they do so in extremely close proximity meaning that maintaining social distancing to avoid the spread of coronavirus is highly unlikely during the festivities.