SC allows for Puri Rath Yatra in the middle of pandemic

Image of past Rath Yatra

News: The Supreme Court announced on June 22 that the Rath Yatra, hugely popular among Hindus, would be allowed to take place, but only at Puri and with a number of restrictions. The Rath Yatra begins today, on June 23, but no restrictions appear to be in place.

Here are five components of the story:

  • A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde was informed by the Odisha government that it will coordinate with the temple management and the Centre to make things smooth during Rath Yatra, which is attended by lakhs to people from around the world, and ensure compliance with health guidelines in view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • While hearing a PIL filed by NGO ‘Odisha Vikash Parishad’ the apex court on June 18 had said that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens, this year’s Puri Rath Yatra cannot be allowed and that “Lord Jagannath won’t forgive us if we allow” it.
  • A day after the order was passed, some applications were filed in the top court seeking recall and modification of its order. CJI Bobde, who presided over the hearing through video conferencing from his Nagpur residence, said that the order will be made public after some time. During the hearing, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre said that without compromising on the health of the people and with the cooperation of the temple trust, the Rath Yatra can be conducted.
  • On April 17, Madurai’s Chithirai festival, scheduled to commence from April 25 was cancelled, with the authorities making arrangements for live-streaming the celestial wedding (Thirukalyanam) of Meenakshi-Sundareswarar. As a result, the flag hoisting ceremony, coronation ceremony, and the temple car festival were not held. Like Puri’s Rath Yatra, Madurai’s Chithirai festival too has a historical legacy, drawing a footfall of five to 10 lakh devotees every year.
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