Bhubaneswar: With the Rath Yatra in Puri just a week away, the silence of the Odisha government, followed by a special leave petition (SLP) filed in the Supreme Court, has triggered fresh uncertainty and confusion.
The SLP, filed by Surendra Panigrahi of the Bharatiya Bikash Parishad, prays that the apex court direct the Odisha government to cancel or postpone the Rath Yatra as holding the 11-day festival will grossly violate guidelines issued by Central government in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
The petitioner has contended that conducting the pahandi (procession) of the Lords to the three chariots by several sevayats will breach social-distancing guidelines. Besides, as several devotees will throng Puri to witness the 11-day festival of the Lords, the spread of the virus in Odisha will be exponential.
Challenging the ruling of Orissa High Court, which has suggested the state government should consider deploying machinery or other means like elephants to pull the chariots, the petitioner has said while the use of machinery will violate the Jagannath culture and tradition, use of elephants for pulling chariots will violate Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Without mentioning that the Rath Yatra has been going on uninterrupted for 273 years, the petitioner tried to convince the court that the festival has not been held on 32 occasions in the last 425 years.
Notably, the Parishad had earlier moved the HC seeking the cancellation of Rath Yatra. However, the court had directed the state government to take a decision after reviewing COVID-19 situation.
Meanwhile, a caveat petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by Jayant Bal, a resident of Cuttack, to hear his plea in response to the SLP of the Bharatiya Bikash Parishad in connection with Rath Yatra.
(Caveat is a notice or a precaution exercise that a certain matter is not heard, judgement is not passed and the order not issued without hearing the person who has filed the caveat. Once the court has accepted a caveat petition, then it is the duty of the court to inform the person by whom the caveat was filed if any case as expected by him/her is filed. The law says that the court shall serve a notice of the application on the caveator which makes it mandatory not discretionary.)