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SC allows Rath Yatra in Puri with curves

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Odisha government to conduct the annual Ratha Jatra in Puri with conditions. A bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said each chariot will be pulled by not more than 500 persons.
“Each of those 500 persons shall be tested for the Coronavirus. They shall be permitted to pull the chariot only if they have been found negative. The number 500 shall include officials and police personnel,” the apex court said in its order.
There shall be an interval of one hour between two chariots.
Each of those who is engaged in pulling the chariot shall maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra, the order added.
“The State Government shall 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 order said.
All entry points into Puri city, i.e., airports, railway stations and bus stands etc., will be closed during the period of Rath Yatra festival.
The apex court directed the Odisha Government to impose a curfew in Puri city on all the days and during all the time when Rath Yatra chariots are taken in procession.
“The State Government may also impose curfew in the city of Puri on such other days and during such time as deemed necessary. During the period of curfew no one would be allowed to come out of their houses or their places of residence, such as, hotels, lodging houses, etc. To start with, the curfew shall begin tonight at 8 PM.,” the order stated
The court directed the State government to ensure the rituals and the Rath Yatra is freely covered by the visual media. “The State Government shall allow TV cameras to be installed at such places as may be found necessary by the TV crew,” the order stated.
“The State Government may take such help as may be found necessary from the Union Government. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General, has assured the Court that the Union Government shall offer all assistance and help to the State Government in this endeavour,” the SC said.
The Supreme Court further said, “Before we passed our earlier Order we had suggested to the parties that the procession of chariots, i.e., the Rath Yatra itself, could be allowed to proceed, however, without the general congregation which participates in this Yatra. We were informed that it would be well nigh impossible to ensure that there is no congregation. This Court was, therefore, left with no option but to grant an injunction restraining the Rath Yatra itself.”
“However, we find, in one of the present applications, an affidavit filed on behalf of the State of Odisha stating that it might be possible to conduct the Rath Yatra at Puri “in a limited way without public attendance”. This has been proposed by Gajapati Maharaj of Puri, who is the Chairman of the Puri Jagannath Temple Administration. Indeed, if it is possible to ensure that there is no public attendance, we see no reason why the Rath Yatra cannot be conducted safely along its usual route from temple to temple,” the court added.

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