New Delhi: Soon after the Supreme Court gave the green signal, decks were cleared in Odisha for holding the historic Ratha Yatra 2020 in Puri on Tuesday. Also Read - Rath Yatra 2020: Situation Extremely Challenging Amid COVID-19 But Fully Prepared, Says CM; Deploys 3 Ministers
Announcing the order, the apex court on Monday permitted the festivities without any public attendance, besides directing other precautions in view of the rising coronavirus cases in the state. Also Read - Rath Yatra 2020: Complete Shutdown Announced in Puri From 9 PM Today Till Wednesday 2 PM
The top court bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said on Monday said that each of three raths or chariots would be pulled by no more than 500 people who will be tested for coronavirus prior to the festival. Also Read - Nation Delights on Decision by Supreme Court: Amit Shah on Puri Rath Yatra
“If Lord Jagannath will not come out tomorrow, he cannot come out for 12 years as per traditions,” the Centre had contended during the hearing earlier in the day.
As part of the preventive measure, the apex court asked the state government to impose curfew in Puri city during the religious event in which lakhs of people from all over the world participate every year.
The top court in its order, however, sounded a word of caution that it was informed that in the 18th-19th century a yatra of this kind was responsible for the spread of cholera and plague like wild fire .
Three heavily-built wooden chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra are traditionally pulled by thousands of devotees over a distance of three kilometres twice during the nine-day festival of the Trinity at Puri. This year the congregations would have been held on June 23 and July 1.
Reacting to the top court’s favourable order, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the entire country is delighted with the apex court’s decision to permit the Rath Yatra and stressed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the initiative for consultations which ensured that the “great traditions of our land are observed”.
Talking about the preparation, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said holding of Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra in Puri amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is a big challenge, while the state government imposed a “curfew-like” shutdown in Puri district and appealed to citizens to refrain from stepping out of their homes when the chariots roll out on the Grand Road on June 23.
The chief minister also asked people to strike a balance between centuries-old traditions and public health. He said the state can set an example for the rest of the people across the globe by performing the rituals with discipline and by adhering to social distancing and COVID guidelines.
Soon after the apex court order, the Odisha government activated its administrative machinery on a war footing and Chief Secretary A K Tripathy and Director General of Police (DGP) Abhay rushed to the pilgrim town.
The apex court also directed that the rituals and the Rath Yatra shall be freely covered by the visual media and the state shall allow TV cameras to be installed at such places as may be found necessary by the TV crew.
“All entry points into the city of Puri — airports, railway stations, bus stands, etc., shall be closed during the period of Rath Yatra festival,” the bench said in its order.
The chief minister said that state government will maintain a record containing details of all those who have been allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra or the rituals connected therewith along with details of their medical conditions after testing, the bench said.