The Supreme Court on Monday reversed its Friday’s verdict and allowed the world famous Jagannath Rath Yatra at Puri, but with a rider that there will be no devotees.
The decision was taken by a 3-judge Bench headed by CJI S A Bobde.
The Bench assigned the Odisha government and the Jagannath Temple Trust the responsibility of ensuring that no congregation of devotees takes place and social distancing norms are maintained.
The court was acting on a bunch of petitions filed by the Centre, the Odisha Government and the Puri royal family scion Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb.
The court also empowered Odisha government to take decisions keeping in mind the larger public good and said that the State can even stop the ‘yatra’ or festivities, if they feel it is going out of hand.
Stating that it is not possible for it to "micro-manage" the event, the court left the matter to the wisdom of the state, the Centre and the temple management.
CM Naveen Patnaik immediately convened a meeting in Bhubaneshwar to coordinate and implement the top court's order.
Before the 3-judge Bench assembled for a special hearing, Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, head of the temple managing committee, and discussed the nitty-gritty of the Yatra.
Later, Odisha BJP President Sameer Mohanty tweeted that "Amit Shah spoke to Gajapati on the instructions of another Lord Jagannath Bhakt PM Narendra Modi."
The Apex Court had on Friday banned this year's Yatra on grounds of public health and safety of citizens, on a petition filed by NGO Odisha Vikas Parishad, with the CJI stressing that "Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow" it.
During the 9-day long festival of the Trinity at Puri, three heavily-built wooden chariots of Lord Jagannath (Krishna), his elder brother Lord Balabhadra (Balram) and sister Devi Subhadra are traditionally pulled by thousands of devotees over a distance of three kilometre twice.
IMPORTANCE: The Rath Yatra symbolises the journey of Lord Jagannath (Krishna) from Dwarka, the kingdom that he ruled, to Brij Bhoomi (modern-day Mathura and Vrindavan), a place where he grew up. The process of pulling the chariot symbolises the purification of mind and is an act of surrendering to the supreme. The local king, known as Gajapati, dresses up like a sweeper and cleans the road with a golden-handled broom.
Those who rushed to the Supreme Court were upset over the court stopping for the first time the rituals associated with the annual Yatra, which has continued without a break since 1736, with the devotees assembling from the world over.
PATRA'S PLEA: The petitioners also included BJP national spokesman Dr Sambit Patra, who sought permission for the yatra without the congregation of devotees on the ground that it can be performed by Lord Jagannath's 800 sevayats (staff), saying all of them have tested negative.
BAN IN GUJARAT: Meanwhile, the annual Jagannath Rath Yatra, which is held at Ahmedabad, in tandem with the one at Puri, has been banned by the Gujarat High Court. A Bench comprising its Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala issued orders not to hold any Rath Yatra at Ahmedabad, or any other district in Gujarat.
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