The Odisha Vikas Parishad has approached the Supreme Court seeking to stay the annual Lord Shri Jagannath's Rath Yatra in the state, which is scheduled to take place on 23 June, 2020, on the ground of impending threat of the pandemic.
As per the plea filed through Advocate Ranjeeta Rohatgi, the religious congregation attracts more than 10 lakhs people every year, and if the Festival is allowed to take place on the scheduled date, it may aggravate the spread of the Coronavirus; jeopardizing lives of thousands of people.
It is further stated that guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on May 30, 2020, have also prohibited all kinds of social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions and other large congregations.
"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," the Petitioner organization has submitted.
Thus, the Petitioner has sought to postpone the Rath Yatra festival, which is scheduled to commence on June 23 and which will further continue for a period of 10-12 days thereafter.
Last week, the Orissa High Court had refused to interfere in this matter in a case titled "Surendra Panigrahi v. State of Idisha & Ors."
This was after the Advocate General for the State informed the Court that the decision whether or not to allow the Rath Yatra shall be taken by the State Government only few days before the scheduled date, on the basis of the situation then prevailing on ground.
Taking this submission on record, the Court had 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 -16- situation at an appropriate time, prior to the scheduled date i.e. few days before 23.6.2020, keeping in view safety, security and welfare of the State."
The court had also held that under the Central Guidelines dated May 30, 2020, it is up to the State Government to decide whether or not to allow such congregations, depending on the prevalent situation.
The High Court had however cautioned that if the State Government eventually decides to allow the Festival, it shall ensure strict adherence to the directives with regard to the adherence to the lockdown measures.
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