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Covid-19: Supreme Court stays Rath Yatra in Puri ‘in the interest of public safety’

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the annual Rath Yatra and associated activities at the Jagannath Temple in Odisha’s Puri in the wake of the coronavirus pademic. The yatra was scheduled to be held on June 23.

The order was passed in a plea by an NGO Odisha Vikas Parishad which had pointed out the public health risk involved if the annual event is allowed to take place.

The yatra involves pulling the chariot of Lord Jagannath as he comes out of his temple in this annual event. The pulling of chariot involves close contact between the people, which violates the social distancing norms.

“In the interest of public health and safety of citizens, we restrain the state from holding the Rath Yatra and associated activities. We direct that there shall be no Rath Yatra and associated activities this year”, the bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde ordered.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta requested the court not to impose a blanket ban and instead allow some leeway by permitting rituals without gathering of public.

“We have enough experience to know that if we allow any religious activity then there will be a gathering…Lord Jagannath will forgive us,” CJI Bobde remarked.

Twelve temples in Balasore district, six in Mayurbhanj, five in Sambalpur, two each in Kandhamal, Bolangir and Gajapati had earlier announced that they will not hold the Rath Yatra outside the temple premises.

“In wake of the pandemic situation, it has been decided to conduct all the Rath Jatra rituals including the Lord’s return car festival, inside the temple premises going by the government guidelines,” a statement issued by the managing committee of Shri Haribaladev Temple, Baripada said in a statement.

All the temples, including the Shree Jagannath temple in Puri, are closed across the state for devotees since March 22 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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