The Gujarat High Court, which ordered stay on holding the annual Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad, has expressed surprise over the "inaction" of the city civic body and the police commissioner for not taking any decision "well in time" on the organisers' plea filed in May that sought permission for the event scheduled on June 23.
A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala on Saturday ordered stay on holding of annual Rath Yatra procession in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its order, the high court also directed the Commissioner of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), the Commissioner of Police and Additional Chief Secretary (Home), to file affidavits "explaining the reasons and circumstances why the application (of Jagannath Mandir Trust) was not disposed of well within time, thereby compelling the parties to rush to the court for urgent hearing.
The organisers of the Rath Yatra had submitted the application to the authorities on May 18. The bench passed the order on a PIL during an urgent hearing on Saturday evening, while the copy of the order was made public on Sunday.
"We are astonished on this inaction of the Municipal Commissioner, AMC, as also the Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad, as to why no decision was taken and communicated to the organiser well within time, rather than keeping the matter pending till the last date when the Rath Yatra is to be carried out on June 23, 2020, that is, just two days away," the court said.
Advocate General Kamal Trivedi had confirmed to the court that the organiser had on May 18, 2020, applied to the AMC and the Police Commissioner for permission and necessary arrangements for the "smooth and safe" conduct of the Rath Yatra, but till date no decision was taken on the said request of the Trust- neither its acceptance nor rejection.
In its order, the court said that there will be no Rath Yatra this year in Ahmedabad and other districts in Gujarat in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The court's order came on a PIL filed by journalist Hitesh Chavda through his lawyer Aum Kotwal, seeking a direction to the state government to restrain the Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad due to the coronavirus pandemic as it is one of the worst-affected cities, and the event''s route passes through three containment zones and a buffer zone.
The court also asked the respondents, including the state government, to file their replies and kept the matter for next hearing on July 6.