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Harish V Nair* | Times Now | New Delhi | June 21, 2020:: Three days after the Supreme Court disallowed Puri Jagannath Temple Rath yatra citing public health and safety amid the Covid-19 outbreak, four petitions have already been filed in the court seeking recall of the order saying the event has an “unbroken tradition” and is “an essential practice of the Jagannatha temple”.
The petitions urge the apex court to withdraw its earlier order and permit the Rath Yatra with certain restrictions and conditions.
Those who moved the SC seeking recall of the order are Janardhan Pattajoshi Mohapatra, who is the hereditary chief servitor of Lord Jagannatha, Daitapati Nijog, the chief body of servitors of the temple, Saroj Kumar Sahu, secretary of Cuttack-based organisation Jagannath Sanskrutika Jana Jagaran Manch and an individual Aftab Hussein.
SC had said in its order, “It is not disputed that the number of people that are likely to gather for the annual Rath Yatra scheduled to be held from 23rd June is going to be about 10 to 12 lakhs. The festivities normally continue for a period of 10 to 12 days. Having regard to the danger presented by such a large gathering of people for the Rath Yatra, we consider it appropriate in the interests of public health and safety of citizens who are devotees to restrain the respondents from holding the Rath Yatra this year. Article 25 of Constitution itself confers the right to freely profess and propagate religion subject to health. We accordingly direct that there shall be no Rath Yatra anywhere in the temple town of Odisha or in any other part of the State this year. We further direct that there shall be no activities associated with the Rath Yatra during this period.
Janardhan Pattajoshi Mohapatra
Mohapatra, one of the petitioners who sought recall of the SC order contended that the Rath Yatra “has an unbroken tradition and is an essential practice of the Jagannatha temple” which the temple administrators should mandatorily observe under all circumstance.
In the application filed through advocate Suvidutt Sundaram, he said: “Any interruption in the observance of this mandatory religious practice affects the very sanctity of the temple and all its future rituals as well as the faith of millions of devotees across the world who understand and revere the significance of the Rath Yatra,” the application stated.
Mohapatra suggested that instead of imposing a blanket ban on the Rath Yatra and the festival and rituals associated with it, the festival can be held without public participation by imposing a curfew in Puri and closing the city borders.
“If a curfew is imposed on the day of Rath Yatra and the Rathas are pulled with the help of earthmovers, the entire journey of Lord Jagannatha – from the Shri Jagannath Temple to Gundicha mandir – of around 2.8 kilometres can be completed in less than one hour. An absolute bar on the performance of such an essential ritual is not necessary to protect public health,”
The State Government has already drawn flak from large sections of the society, including devotees, along with the Opposition BJP and Congress over its stance in the court
Daitapati Nijog, the chief body of servitors of Sri Jagannath temple urged for allowing the car festival with adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines. He questioned the order despite no apprehensions being raised by the state government so far.
The servitor body stated that several additional measures including the imposition of total curfew in Puri town for two days before the festival and sealing of its borders to prevent the entry of outsiders can be taken for smooth conduct of Rath Yatra without any fear of coronavirus spread.
Jagannath Sanskrutika Jana Jagaran Manch
Another petition filed by Saroj Kumar Sahu, secretary of Cuttack-based organisation Jagannath Sanskrutika Jana Jagaran Manch, alleged that the State Government had failed to place facts before the court.
It says “as per the order of the Orissa High Court and the decision of the State Government, the Snana Purnima ritual was conducted on June 5 with the help of 800 servitors. All the 800 servitors had undergone COVID-19 test and were found negative The 800 servitors are in isolation for more than one month as on today. Besides, 372 carpenters, blacksmiths and rupakars are engaged in the construction of three chariots for more than one and a half months with strict compliance to guidelines issued by Centre and the State Government. As on today, a total of 1034 persons, including 132 Jagannath temple police personnel, are in isolation for more than one and half months for the conduct of the Rath Yatra”.
The petition also stated that “on May 30, thousands of people of the town had gathered on the road connecting the Jagannath Temple to Gundicha temple by maintaining social distance to sing Bande Utkala Janani”.
It stated that a total of 500 to 600 persons were required for pulling the chariots. “The distance from the Puri Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple is 3 km. The Rath Yatra can be performed with the help of 500-600 servitors by maintaining social distance on the 3 km stretch and by imposing the restrictions as well as Section 144 of CrPC,” the petitioner submitted.
Aftab Hussein, another petitioner, also sought modification of the order of the Supreme Court and sought permission to allow conduct the Rath Yatra by sevayats (servitors) only. He stated that Puri is in the green zone and Covid-19 has not spread in the town. Whatever infection has been found is among the migrants returning from other states.
“If the Puri Town is completely shut down on the day of Rath Yatra, the festival can be conducted smoothly by sevayats only and no infection will happen to the general public and that will meet the ends of justice,” he submitted.
Harish V Nair is the Senior Editor (Legal) of Times Now News.
Courtesy to the Source.