The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to interfere with the Odisha government’s decision to limit the Rath Yatra this year to the Puri Jagannath temple, Live Law reported. The court dismissed petitions that sought permission to hold Rath Yatras at other temples as well.
On June 10, the state government announced that the annual festival of Rath Yatra in Puri will begin on July 12 and will take place without devotees. The government added that only fully-vaccinated temple officials or those who test negative for the coronavirus disease 48 hours before the festival will be allowed to pull the chariots for the yatra, The Times of India reported.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court noted that the Odisha government had made a carefully-weighed decision, keeping in mind that the country was still recovering from the devastating second wave of Covid-19, according to Live Law. “I also feel bad but we can’t do anything about it,” Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said. “Hope god will allow next Rath Yatra.”
The chief justice added that he also wanted to go to Puri for the annual festival but didn’t. “I worship at home,” he added.
The petitioners argued that Covid-19 cases in some districts of Odisha had reduced. “We are considered second Puri and in 445 years, first time we are being denied Rath Yatra,” Advocate AK Srivastava, who appeared for the Baripada Lord Jagannath Temple, said, according to Live Law. “We started our preparations in compliance with Covid-19 protocol. All our volunteers have been tested negative.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta suggested that the court allow a small number of devotees to perform rituals in other places in Odisha. “This way both religious sentiments and health of people will be protected,” he said.
In 2020 also, the Jagannath Rath Yatra was drastically scaled down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Usually, lakhs of devotees attend the festival.