The Orissa High court on Thursday comprising of a bench of Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice S.Ok. Panigrahi dismissed a bunch of petitions filed by devotees and the sevayats of the deities praying for permission to carry Rath Yatras/Automobile Competition elsewhere within the State on parity with the permission granted in relation to Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri. (Ratha Yatra Committee, Bhatli and Ors. v. Authorities of Odisha and Others)

The bench thus said: “These are extraordinary instances through which not simply Odisha however all the nation is barely recovering from the second wave of the lethal Covid pandemic. The measures and precautions taken by the State of Odisha must be seen within the stated context. Consequently, this Courtroom is just not inclined to entertain any of the prayers in any of the above writ petitions, praying for permission to carry their respective Rath yatras/festivals on parity with the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri.”

A total of 6 petitions were filed after the State Government in its order dated 10 June 2021 made it clear that no Rath Yatra or car festival shall be held at any place of the State except the Lord Jagannath temple at Puri.

The order Particularly directed that no chariots shall be pulled in locations/temples within the State of Odisha besides Automobile competition/Ratha Yatra of Lord Jagannath Bije Puri and that solely rituals could also be carried out contained in the temple premises aside from Lord Jagannath temple.

In view of this, the bench noticed that temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri “constitutes a category aside” and has been implicitly acknowledged by the Supreme court in the case of Odisha Bikash Parishad v. Union of India whereby particular instructions have been issued in relation to the holding of the Ratha Yatra in Puri final 12 months through the first covid wave.

The bench stated, “In all these petitions on behalf of the devotees and the sevayats of the deities in several places of the State of Odisha the grievance raised is that they too ought to have been permitted to conduct the respective Automobile festivals on the bottom that the speed of COVID-19 surge in these places is way lower than it’s at Puri.” 

Observing that the measures and precautions taken by the State of Odisha must be seen within the stated context, the bench dismissed the pleas.

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