Gujarat HC stays Ahmedabad’s Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra on coronavirus concerns

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The Gujarat High Court on Saturday stayed Ahmedabad’s annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath scheduled on June 23 considering the prevailing coronavirus situation.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala stayed all secular and religious activities related to the Rath Yatra. Submissions made by the petitioner and respondents and the recent order of the supreme court staying Rath Yatra in Puri were taken into consideration.

The PIL, filed by journalist and activist Hitesh Chavda through his lawyer Aum Kotwal, had sought the HC’s direction against allowing the annual procession considering the coronavirus pandemic.

As per the state government, the number of Covid-19 cases in Ahmedabad district rose to 18,564 on Saturday while the death toll stood at 1,312.

The state government told the HC that the procession will cover a distance of around 18 kms and that approximately 7-8 lakh people will participate in it.

Though the state government had not yet given a green signal to holding the Rath Yatra, Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja had on Wednesday said a decision would be taken after considering the situation in the city.

The petitioner had raised serious concerns saying the procession would have passed through certain localities that are among the worst-affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Several containment areas fall under the route of the Yatra, organised annually by Shri Jagannathji Mandir Trust.

Lakhs of people run the risk of getting infected by coronavirus if the procession is allowed to be organised, the PIL stated.

“In such a scenario, all the work done by the authorities, civil societies and citizens to fight the leviathan like Covid-19 will go in absolute vain and bring us to a rather despicable and horrific situation,” it said.

The route of the yatra passes through several cluster containment zones and micro-containment areas, it said.

There are a total of 36 micro-containment zones in the city.

Earlier, temple authorities had said that they would take out only chariots of Lord Jagannath without any procession.

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