Supreme Court stays this year's Jagannath Rath Yatra in Odisha's Puri

New Delhi [India], June 18 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the annual Rath Yatra at Jagannath Temple in Odisha's Puri, which was slated to being on June 23, and all activities related to the gathering in view of the coronavirus pandemic this year.

A three-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of India CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde said that such gatherings cannot take place at the time of the pandemic.

"Lord Jagannath will forgive us if we stay the Rath Yatra this year... In the interest of public health and safety of citizens, Rath Yatra can't be allowed this year," the apex court remarked.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by an NGO named Odisha Vikas Parishad seeking a stay on the annual Rath Yatra to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in view of which the country is under lockdown for the past few months.

The plea sought an immediate order directing the respondents, including the Odisha government, not to grant any permission for holding the Rath Yatra till the disposal of the accompanying writ petition.

A religious congregation of such nature will be dangerous, which has been specifically prohibited by the state government vide its guidelines of June 1 and 6, the NGO stated in the petition.

It said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India vide its guideline of May 30, also stated if any congregation will be allowed, it will lead to severe catastrophic results and it will be very difficult on the part of the authorities to control the spread of virus thereafter.

Meanwhile, in Odisha, the construction of Raths for the Yatra are underway in full swing after the temple administration decided to take out the Yatra under Section 144 imposition, without the presence of devotees.

On the other hand, the Odisha government has restricted religious congregations till June 30. (ANI)