Supreme Court allows Ratha Jatra in Puri with Restrictions

TNI Bureau: Putting all speculation to rest, the three-judge bench of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India on Monday granted permission to hold annual Ratha Jatra (Chariot festival) in Puri without public participation, modifying its June 18 order. The Apex Court also added that the State Govt has the freedom to stop the Chariot festival if there is a spike in number of Covid-19 cases in Puri.

While passing its judgement, the Supreme Court said it leaves it to Jagannath Temple Management Trust and Odisha Government to conduct Ratha Jatra in a very restricted manner without allowing congregation of devotees. The State Government assured the SC that they would coordinate with the Centre while conducting Ratha Jatra.

All COVID-19 guidelines will be followed during the Ratha Jatra festival. In addition, there won’t be any congregation of the devotees.

A lot of arguments were made in favour of Ratha Jatra by the counsels representing the Centre and Odisha Government. SG Tushar Mehta, 3former SGs Harish Salve, Mohan Parasaran and Ranjit Kumar; 3 ex-ASGs Maninder Singh, K V Vishwanath and P S Narasimha as well as Senior Advocates C S Vaidyanathan, Mahesh Jethmalani and Arijit Prasad batted for the Ratha Jatra in Puri.

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The Supreme Court stressed on the need for maintaining public health while conducting the rituals. It passed the buck to the State Government, saying they need to manage it appropriately so that no health hazards occur due to Ratha Jatra.

Harish Salve, representing the Odisha Government, has assured the Supreme Court and said the State would be responsible if there is a spike in numbers. The Solicitor General also added that guidelines for health and safety are mandatory and must be followed.

CJI SA Bobde questioned the role of Shankaracharya in Ratha Jatra and said it’s the Temple Trust under the State Government, which is in charge of conducting the festival.

The Centre also put the blame on Odisha Government, saying they keep changing their stands. “They first opposed Ratha Jatra and support it,” said the Solicitor General. However, CJI said even Shankarracharya earlier supported our order and now opposes it.

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