Virtual Court No 1 of Supreme Court in an arbitrary decision canceled all religious and secular activities connected with the thousands-year-old annual Jagannath Rath Yatra on 18-06-2020 at 12.00 Noon.
The Virtual(Computer programmed) Court headed by CJI, SA Bobde along with Justice Dinesh Maheswari and Justice A.S Bopanna while listening to a PIL filed by a Hindu hater NGO, Odisha Vikash Parishad passed a blanket injunction on Puri annual Rath Jatra taking a plea of COVID pandemic. The matter shall be listed after 4 weeks from today.
Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the petitioner NGO and submitted that even Olympic game has been stalled due to COVID-19, therefore the Rath Jatra should also be canceled. On the other hand Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta appearing for the Union Government asked for indulgence and some concession for partial allowance of annual Car festival of Hindu Holy Trinity. Harish Salve instructed by the Odisha Government appeared a little confused and posed that the festival may cause public gatherings. Odisha Govt. failed to peruse any alternative mode for pulling the Rath of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra.
Puri Srimandir Purohit (priest) after getting permission for ‘Rath Pratistha’ started to construct the Car and it is almost finished on a war footing basis. Orissa High Court already directed the State government to consider deploying heavy machinery or elephants to pull the chariots during Rath Yatra to prevent the gathering of hundreds of people during the Covid-19 pandemic. In this situation, Orissa High Court has been in a better situation to judge the matter. SC overlooked it without any strong ground. Puri King Gajapati( Chief ordained hereditary priest) on May 30, informed that the Rath Yatra would be held without devotees. Mukti Mandap Pandit Sabha’s vice-president, Ashok Mohapatra said, “the use of elephants is practically impossible and there is no need to deploy machinery to pull the chariots. The State government should deploy 20,000 to 30,000 police personnel for pulling the chariots.” At the same time, there is already an imposition of section 144 in Puri town to ensure the participation of devotees. In this PIL Hindu organization or Temple Trust was not made a party.
So, there is enough possibility to observe the Holy Rath Jatra without mass gathering after observing Health Ministry`s COVID-19 recommendations.
While hearing via Internet, the CJI adopted melancholia and noted, “Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allow this to continue. Activities related to the Rath Yatra is injuncted.” He further commented, “The word ‘juggernaut’ comes from Jagannath; a juggernaut cannot be stopped. So, Lord Jagannath cannot be stopped by this.” The Computer Court ordered, “We consider it appropriate that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens to restrain the respondents from holding the Rath Yatra this year. We direct that no Rath Yatra will be held in temple areas of Odisha.”
It would be better that the central Govt and Orissa Govt may approach the Court for modification of the Order to avoid public criticism.