SC green lights Rath Yatra; chariots to roll on Puri’s Grand Road tomorrow

Recalling its earlier ban on the festival, SC asks Odisha government to restrict festivities and public participation

The Rath Yatra of Puri is attended by millions of devotees who throng the Grand Road of Puri to witness the three deities. Photo: PTI

The Supreme Court on Monday (June 22) green signalled the conduct of the famous Rath Yatra of Puri, albeit with restrictions.

Leaving the “final call” pertaining to the conduct of the festival on the Odisha government, the apex court asked it to assess the situation and take steps to restrict festivities and public participation if needed.

A bench of chief justice SA Bobde and justices AS Bopanna and Dinesh Maheshwari gave the order after hearing almost 24 petitions during a video conference on Monday.

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Related news: COVID-19 clouds over Jagannath Rath Yatra

The apex court on Thursday (June 18) had asked the state government to limit all rituals to the precincts of the Srimandir (Jagannath Temple), dashing the hopes of millions of devotees.

The seven-day-long festival that marks the annual sojourn of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Debi Subhadra to their aunt’s abode, starts on Tuesday (June 23). The festival every year witnesses lakhs of devotes from home and abroad congregating on the Grand Road of Puri to see the triads in their embellished rathas (chariots).

The Supreme Court’s recalling of its earlier order came after the Centre and the Odisha government urged it to allow the conduct of the festival with restrictions.

“It is a matter of faith for crores. If Lord Jagannath will not come out tomorrow, he cannot come out for 12 years as per traditions,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre told the apex court on Monday.

Related news: SC stays Puri’s Rath Yatra due to COVID-19 pandemic

Responding to the petitions earlier in the day, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had observed, “A ritual going on for centuries cannot be interfered with. Only people tested negative (for coronavirus) and working in the Lord Jagannath temple can be part of the ritual.”

Earlier, banning the conduct of the festival this year, Chief Justice SA Bobde had said that, “Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allowed the Rath Yatra.”

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