CJI Ramana refuses to allow Rath Yatras in Odisha; cites COVID-19 situation

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a batch of petitions seeking permission to hold Rath Yatras in other temples in the State of Odisha at par with Rath Yatra at the iconic Puri Jagannath Temple. It held that given the country is only recovering from the second wave of Covid-19, the Odisha Government has taken a considered decision.

I also feel bad but we can’t do anything about it. Hope god will allow next Rath Yatra,” CJI ramana said while dismissing the petitions citing the Covid-19 situation.

The CJI added that he also wished to go to Puri for the Rath Yatra however, given the public health situation in the country, he has decided to worship at home.

“I also want to go to Puri for the last 1.5 years but I don’t. I worship at home,” he remarked.

The rath yatras were restricted by the administration as part of COVID pandemic control measures. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy was hearing a writ petition filed by Odisha Vikas Parishad.

Earlier, the Orissa High Court had declined permission for holding Rath Yatras at other places saying that Puri “constitutes a class apart” and has been implicitly recognized by the Supreme Court in last year’s decision in Odisha Bikash Parishad v. Union of India whereby specific directions were issued in relation to the holding of the Ratha Yatra in Puri last year during the first covid wave.

The High Court order stated,

These are extraordinary times in which not just Odisha but the entire country is barely recovering from the second wave of the deadly Covid pandemic. The measures and precautions taken by the State of Odisha have to be viewed in the said context. Consequently, this Court is not inclined to entertain any of the prayers in any of the above writ petitions, praying for permission to hold their respective Rath yatras/festivals on parity with the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri.