Intervention pleas urge SC to allow Rath Yatra with limited number of devotees
The intervention applications seek a recall or a modification of the order delivered by the Supreme Court’s on June 18 staying the annual Rath Yatra in the backdrop of COVID-19
After the Supreme Court halted the annual Rath Yatra in Odisha, two intervention applications have been moved in the top court seeking a modification of the June 18 order to the extent that Rath Yatra be permitted with limited number of devotees while maintaining social distancing, legal news website BarandBench.com has reported.
The first intervention application filed by the Jagannath Sanskruti Jana Jagrana Manch states that the Odisha Vikas Parishad did not cite the Orissa High Court order of June 9 whereby the court had not stayed the Rath Yatra, instead leaving it to the state government to decide "whether or not to hold the Rath Yatraon June 23.”
In its June 9 order, the High Court had added that in case the state decides to holds the Rath Yatra, strict adherence would be given to the Central government rules of May 7 and May 30 pertaining to social distancing and adherence to lockdown measures.
The plea seeking a recall of the Supreme Court order or a modification of the order also points out that the Deba Snana Purnima ritual was performed on June 5 with the help of 800 servitors.
Before performing the ritual, all 800 servitors underwent COVID-19 tests and were reported to be negative. The 800 servitors are in isolation for more than one month as of today, the petitioners submit.
As per the High Court order, 372 labours were allowed to be engaged in the construction of the 3 raths or chariots for more than one and a half months. All of these labourers are in isolation and were found to be COVID-19 negative.
The Jagannath Sanskruti Jana Jagrana Manch has further argued that the Puri Municipality is categorized as a green zone and thousands of people of the municipality had gathered on the road connecting Puri Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple on May 30 by maintaining social distance and that they had sung the state anthem.
In this backdrop, the intervenor seeks a modification of the top court's June 18 order so that the Rath Yatra can be performed by 500-600 servitors by maintaining a social distance on the 3 km road stretch and by imposing the restrictions as under Section 144 of CrPC.
Another intervention application seeking a partial modification of the June 18 order has been filed by Aftab Hossen, a resident of Puri, who has stated before the court that the letter dated May 7 by the Centre addressed to the chief secretary of the government of Odisha indicates that the Odisha Government sought permission from the central government. Accordingly, permission was also granted subjected to certain restrictions.
Hossen has further stated that the state has already spent crores in construction of the chariots and conducted the COVID-19 tests of hundreds of servitors. The intervenor states that after the June 18 order, there is “angst” among the people of Odisha and that the Court should allow the conduct of the rath yatra with participation only from servitors and temple police, without the general public playing a role in it.
Hossen further claims that it is rather important to celebrate the festival as there is “scientific evidence” to testify that the weather becomes pleasant when Lord Jagannath is brought out of the temple.