The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that the yearly Rath Yatra and related festivities at the Jagannath Temple in Odisha’s Puri city will not take place amid safety concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Live Law reported.
“Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allowed the Rath Yatra,” Chief Justice SA Bobde said while hearing a petition seeking the postponement of the Rath Yatra, which is scheduled to begin on June 23. “We consider it appropriate in the interest of public health and the safety of citizens to restrain the respondents from holding the Rath Yatra this year.”
The top court passed the order on a petition filed by a non-governmental organisation named Odisha Vikas Parishad. The NGO had flagged that the yatra would pose a massive public health risk if allowed to be held. The Rath Yatra “will be an invitation to infect lakhs of devotees,” the petition said, according to NDTV.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Odisha government, also suggested that the festivities must be stopped to avert the risk of infection.
So far, Odisha has recorded 4,338 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths so far, according to data from the Ministry of Health and Public Welfare.
Religious places across the country had been allowed to open in the first phase of ease on lockdown restrictions called “Unlock 1”, but with strict safety and physical distancing measures in place. Huge gatherings remain banned.
On Thursday, India reported a record 12,881 new coronavirus cases, taking the country’s overall count to 3,66,946. Across India, 12,237 people have died of the coronavirus.