‘If Lord Jagannath doesn’t come out tomorrow, he can’t for 12 years’


New Delhi The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that if the ban on the Puri Rath Yatra was not lifted and if traditions were broken, stopping Lord Jagannath from taking his chariot ride starting Tuesday then as per norm, the Hindu god will not be able to have a Rath Yatra for the next 12 years. The Centre told the apex court that the Rath Yatra can be held without public participation.

The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, mentioned the Rath Yatra issue before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, after a top court bench put a ban on the Rath Yatra last week.

Mehta contended before the bench that the tradition of centuries may not be stopped. “It’d be a matter of faith for crores of people. If Lord Jagannath will not come out tomorrow, he cannot come out for 12 years as per traditions.

“While maintaining the precautions to ensure that the pandemic is not spread further, the state government can impose curfew for a day.”

He emphasized that all sevayats and pandas who are tested negative can participate in rituals as may be decided by Shankracharya. The apex court had earlier banned all related activities to Rath Yatra festival.

“People may not congregate. Rather they can seek blessings on TV during live telecast.

“Raja of Puri and the temple committee may supervise arrangements of the rituals,” Mehta submitted before the bench.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the Odisha government, contended that he agrees with the Centre to conduct the Rath Yatra with certain precautions. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the modification applications and it will take up the matter for further hearing later in the day.

BJP leader Sambit Patra has moved the Supreme Court seeking recall of its June 18 order, which put a stay on the Puri Rath Yatra citing Covid pandemic. Patra in his plea has sought permission from the apex court for holding the yatra without congregation of devotees by using services of Lord Jagannath’s 800 sevayats, all of whom have tested negative for COVID-19.

Many applications have been moved in the apex court on behalf of individuals and NGOs seeking permission for the Rath Yatra without congregation. The apex court is likely to hear the matters on Monday.

The famous yatra was to start from the Jagannath Temple on June 23. However, according to the last week ruling there was not to be any chariot pulling of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra and all other activities associated with the annual program also stand cancelled.

On June 18, a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and A.S. Bopanna took the step amid rising cases of the Coronavirus in the country that has now crossed 4.25 lakh cases and nearing 14,000 deaths.