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Lord Jagannath Will Forgive Us, SC On Staying Annual Rath Yatra At Puri

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The Supreme Court on Thursday has stayed the annual Lord Shri Jagannath’s Rath Yatra in the state, which is scheduled to take place on 23 June, 2020.

The bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice AS Bopanna while staying the Rath Yatra remarked ““even Lord Jagannath won’t forgive us if we allow it.”

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Odisha VikasParishad contending that the Yatra attracts more than 10 lakhs people every year, and if the Festival is allowed to take place on the scheduled date, it may aggravate the spread of the Coronavirus, thus jeopardizing lives of thousands of people.

“It is not disputed that the number of people that are likely to gather for the annual Rath Yatra scheduled to be held from 23rd June, 2020, is going to be about 10 to 12 lakhs. The festivities normally continue for a period of 10 to 12 days,” the Court noted in its order.

In today’s hearing CJI said that the issue was serious and even if the Yatra attracts ten thousand people it will be dangerous.

While the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta  urged the bench to allow him to seek instructions on the issue from the government, Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the petitioners interjected and said “there is no way we can have 10 lakh people congregating in Bhubaneswar.” He further urged the Court for an injunction.

The bench asked Senior Counsel Harish Salve for his views on the issue. Salve said that holding of the Yatra seemed difficult in the present lockdown situation and suggested for an opition of injunction. The petitioners have also pointed out the May 30 guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs which states that “A religious congregation of such nature which has been specifically prohibited by the State Government vide its guidelines dated 01.06.2020 & 07.06.2020 and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India vide its guideline dated 30.05.2020, if allowed, will lead to catastrophic results and it will be very difficult on the part of the authorities to control the spread of virus thereafter.”

“Having regard to the danger presented by such a large gathering of people for the Rath Yatra, we consider it appropriate in the interests of public health and safety of citizens who are devotees to restrain the respondents from holding the Rath Yatra this year. Article 25 of the Constitution of India itself confers the right to freely profess and propagate religion subject to health,” said the Court in its order.

Read the full order here;

12648-2020-31-11-22660-Order-18-Jun-2020

-India Legal Bureau

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