The Supreme Court on Thursday stopped the annual Rath Yatra at Puri's Jagannath Temple on June 23 this year, citing Covid-19 concerns.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde also stopped all activities associated with the Rath Yatra, commenting: "Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow this to happen this year."
The bench was categorical that a religious congregation of this nature cannot be allowed at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"In the interest of public health and safety of citizens, Rath Yatra cannot be allowed this year," stated the bench in its order.
The bench also turned down a request by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to grant some relaxation for the temple management to conduct certain rituals after observing the norms.
"We have enough experience of such cases. Once we allow anything, people with their religious fervour will gather in huge number. So we won't allow anything…nothing for this year,” retorted the CJI.
Senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi favoured the views of the court.
The PIL in this matter was filed by NGO Odisha Vikas Parishad, which informed the court that all the rituals leading up to the Rath Yatra such as ‘Akshay Trutiya' and ‘Snana Purnima' have been allowed to be performed by the Odisha government.
Thus, the petitioner apprehends that there is a possibility that the Rath Yatra, which draws in lakhs of people, will also be allowed to take place.
Stating that the religious festival had attracted a crowd of 10 lakh in 2019, the plea urges that if such an arrangement is repeated this year, then the results would be "catastrophic”.