In this case, the petitioner submitted that congregation of nearly 10 lakh people in Bhubaneshwar cannot be allowed for the Yatra amid the threat of COVID-19 spread. Petition was filed by Odisha Vikas Parishad contending that if the festival is allowed to take place on the scheduled date, it may aggravate the spread of the Coronavirus, thus jeopardizing lives of thousands of people.
The bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice AS Bopanna while staying the Rath Yatra remarked “even Lord Jagannath won’t forgive us if we allow it.”
"Having regard to the danger presented by such a large gathering of people for the Rath Yatra, we consider it appropriate in the interests of public health and safety of citizens who are devotees to restrain the respondents from holding the Rath Yatra this year. Article 25 of the Constitution of India itself confers the right to freely profess and propagate religion subject to health."
The court further directed there should be no activity, secular or religious, associated with the Rath Yatra. While Solicitor General Tushar Mehta says the sensitivity of the matter requires that some rituals should be allowed, the CJI refused to entertain the submission saying “The word ‘juggernaut’ comes from Jagannath; a juggernaut cannot be stopped. So, Lord Jagannath cannot be stopped by this. In the interest of public health and safety of citizens, we restrain the state from holding the Rath Yatra and associated activities. We direct that there shall be no Rath Yatra and associated activities this year", the CJI ordered.
By: Deepanjali Singh