Supreme Court permits a crowd-less Jagannath Yatra; mandatory COVID-19 tests for participants


THE Supreme Court of India has lifted its ban on the celebration of Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra and overturned its earlier order. The Rath Yatra can now take place in Odisha’s temple town Puri under certain conditions.


CJI Bobde justified the change in the court’s stand by saying “We were informed that it would be well impossible to ensure that there is no congregation. This Court was, therefore, left with no option but to grant an injunction restraining the Rath Yatra itself”. The Puri Temple Administration had submitted a plan for conducting the Yatra without large congregation of people. In the 18th-19th century, such festivals, have caused a wildfire like spread of epidemics like cholera and plague. 


“Indeed, if it is possible to ensure that there is no public attendance, we see no reason why the Rath Yatra cannot be conducted safely along its usual route from temple to temple”, the court said.


A three judge bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, and A S Bopanna passed the conditions. The bench remarked upon the Government of Odisha’s good track record in disaster management to say “We take a note of the fact that the State of Orissa has a good record of having controlled the pandemic with a very little loss of life. We see no reason why the same attitude of care and caution should not be applied to the Rath Yatra.”


Restricted Access to City


  • The Government must close all entry points into the City of Puri such as airports, railway stations, bus stands etc, the period of Rath Yatra festival.
  • The State Government will impose a strict curfew in the city on all the days and at the time of the procession. The curfew begins tonight at 8 P.M.


Limitation on number of persons


  • The court has allowed only 500 persons at the most to pull each rath/chariot. They all should test negative for COVID-19 before the procession. The 500 person limit includes officials and police personnel.
  • The people pulling the Rath must maintain social distancing before, during and after the procession.
  • There will be an interval of one hour between two chariots.
  • Only those who are necessarily required for the performance of rituals can participate in them. They must test negative for COVID-19 and maintain social distancing.


Appointment of responsible bodies for compliance


  • The Committee in-charge of Puri Jagannath Temple Administration, and its individual members, are responsible for the implementation of these conditions. The court will also hold officers designated by the State Government for conducting of the Rath Yatra responsible.
  • The committee must allow only the bare minimum number of people required to participate in the rituals and in the Rath Yatra. 
  • The State Government must maintain a record of medical conditions after testing of all participants.
  • The Union Government must provide all necessary assistance as required by the State Government


Widespread coverage by Media


  • Visual media can freely cover the Rath Yatra and rituals. TV cameras can be installed at all necessary places.


Read the Order here