Midnight Hearing: Gujarat High Court declines to grant permission for Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad
Following a midnight hearing, the Gujarat High Court has declined, for a third time, to give permission for the conduct of the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra this year at Ahmedabad in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order was passed by the Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala.
The State of Gujarat moved the High Court late at night urging the High Court to review its stay order passed last Saturday on the Yatra and to allow the same to happen in Ahmedabad.
In its application, the State had emphasised that it appreciates the present pandemic situation in Ahmedabad.
However, keeping in mind the 142-year old tradition involved in the regular conduct of the Rath Yatra every year in the city, and given the religious sentiments attached to the event, the High Court was urged to modify its order halting its conduct this year.
To buttress its argument, the Gujarat Government highlighted that the Supreme Court itself on Monday modified its earlier order on the issue with a view to balancing the interests of religious sentiments and public safety amid the pandemic situation in Odisha.
On similar lines, the High Court was urged to allow the Yatra’s conduct in Ahmedabad while unconditionally undertaking to strictly abide by various safety measures. The safety measures proposed included the following:
* The imposition of a curfew from 9 pm on Monday to 11 am on Tuesday,
* The condition that the Rath Yatra will be completed by 11 am on Monday.
* A condition that the Yatra will not stop at any place till it returns to the Jagannath Temple at Jamalpur after having gone upto Ranchodji Temple at Saraspur, Ahmedabad.
* Only three chariots (Raths) will be permitted to go for the Yatra
* There will be mechanised vehicles to pull the chariots to make the movement faster.
* Only five persons will be allowed to attend per chariot while maintaining social distancing norms.
* Only four vehicles will be allowed to accompany the Rath Yatra. Two will be utilised by religious leaders and the remain two will be utilised by the media while mandating all social distancing norms.
* Local TV channels will enable the live telecast of the Yatra for devotees so that they don’t have to come outside.
* Police personnel will bar present throughout.
* There will be no usage of animals.
* Distribution of Prasad will not be allowed in any manner.