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A plea has been filed by Odisha Vikas Parishad seeking to stay the annual Lord Shri Jagannath’s Rath Yatra in Odisha, which is scheduled to commence on June 23 in Puri, on the ground of the imminent threat of a pandemic. The plea stated that in 2019 the religious festival attracted a crowd of 10 lakh and if it’s repeated this year then the result would be catastrophic, dangering the lives of thousands of people.

It further stated the Union Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines, issued on May 30, 2020, which also prohibits all kinds of social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions and other large gatherings.

“A religious congregation of such nature which has been specifically prohibited by the state government vide its guidelines dated 01.06.2020 & 07.06.2020 and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India vide its guideline dated 30.05.2020, if allowed, will lead to catastrophic results and it will be very difficult on the part of the authorities to control the spread of virus thereafter” urged the plea.

The High Court of Orissa in Surendra Panigrahi v. State of Odisha & Others, observed-“The State Government is fully cognizant of the deteriorating situation about the spread of Coronavirus in the State. It is constantly monitoring such situation and will take a decision with regard to holding or otherwise, of the Ratha Yatra, on the basis of objective evaluation of the ground situation at an appropriate time, prior to the scheduled date i.e. a few days before 23.6.2020, keeping in view safety, security, and welfare of the State. “Hence the decision lies with the state government and therefore the petitioner moved to SC for the relief. The petition filed in SC can be read here.

By: Shifa Qureshi

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