The Supreme Court, on Thursday cancelled the annual Rath Yatra at Puri's Jagannath Temple in Odisha due to coronavirus pandemic. The historic Puri Rath Yatra was scheduled from June 23. A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and A S Bopanna said that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens, this year's Rath Yatra at Puri will not be allowed.
CJI Bobde stated, "Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow this year's Rath Yatra to go on." CJI Bobde said that as such a huge gathering can't take place during the pandemic.
The SC appealed the Odisha government to not allow any religious procession amid the coronavirus outbreak. During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi had appeared for an Odisha-based NGO that had filed a PIL seeking cancellation or postponement of this year's Rath Yatra to mitigate the risk of spread of coronavirus among thousands of devotees.
A counsel appearing for an intervenor said the Odisha government has issued a notification that there shall be no public gathering till June 30. Besides the PIL filed by the NGO, Odisha Vikas Parishad, also sought for a stay on holding of the annual festival.
The PIL said the religious congregation of such nature, which has been specifically prohibited by MHA guidelines dated May 30, if allowed, will lead to catastrophic results. Thus, keeping in mind the interests of the general public at large, it would be apposite to postpone the Rath Yatra festival.
The historic Rath Yatra is a religious procession that goes for 10 to 12 days every year, where millions of devotees from across the world participate. Three heavily built wooden chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra are traditionally pulled manually over a distance of three kilometres twice during the nine-day festival of the Trinity at Puri.