New Delhi: Giving a go-ahead for the Rath Yatra at Puri, the Supreme Court on Monday passed 11 directions including for a curfew as the Odisha government stated that it might be possible to conduct the festival "in a limited way without public attendance."
The apex court ordered closure of entry points into Puri and the state government would have to impose a curfew, which begins 8 pm on Monday and continues during the period of the Rath Yatra.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and A.S. Bopanna said: "The bare minimum number of people shall be allowed by the Committee to participate in the rituals and in the Rath Yatra. All entry points into Puri, i.e., airports, railway stations, bus stands, etc, shall be closed during the period of Rath Yatra festival."
On June 18, the apex court put a stay on the Rath Yatra against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
on Monday, the bench said the state government shall impose a curfew in Puri on all the days and during all the time when Rath Yatra chariots are taken in procession.
"The state government may also impose curfew in the city of Puri on such other days and during such time as deemed necessary. During the period of curfew, no one would be allowed to come out of their houses or their places of residence, such as hotels, lodging houses, etc.... to start with, the curfew shall begin tonight at 8 p.m.," said the top court, noting that the state has a good record of having controlled the pandemic with a very little loss of life.
The bench directed that each chariot should not be pulled by not more than 500 persons, and they have to be tested for coronavirus. "They shall be permitted to pull the chariot only if they have been found negative. The number 500 shall include officials and police personnel," it added.
The bench directed that there shall be an interval of one hour between two chariots, and everybody involved in pulling the chariot should maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra.
The bench also added that only people who have tested negative for coronavirus should be allowed to participate in rituals associated with Rath Yatra. It emphasised both Centre and state officials are responsible for compliance with general directions which govern ensuring public health.
"The primary responsibility for conducting the Rath Yatra in accordance with the conditions and other norms shall be that of the Committee in-charge of Puri Jagannath Temple Administration. Each member of the Committee shall be responsible for due compliance with the conditions imposed by this Court," said the bench.
It also allowed TV coverage of the Rath Yatra.
"The state government shall maintain a record containing details of all those who have been allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra or the rituals connected therewith along with details of their medical conditions after testing," added the bench.