After a prolonged hearing that went on past 2 am on Tuesday, the Gujarat High Court decided to continue with its stay on Rath Yatra processions in Ahmedabad and elsewhere in the state, as was directed by a division bench on June 20.
To this effect, the court dismissed all intervening applications, as well as the state’s application seeking a modification in the HC’s earlier order.
The Gujarat government through Advocate General Kamal Trivedi had moved an application seeking that the procession be allowed along the original route, while restricting public participation. The state had also submitted that the procession would be concluded by 11 am, would see none of the usual stops, no distribution of Prasad, and would have only five persons pulling each of the three chariots.
The state and the other third party interveners were relying on the Supreme Court ruling Monday, where it permitted the Rath Yatra procession in Puri, Odisha, subject to restrictions.
However, the division bench headed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath did not accept these grounds, saying the Covid-19 situation in Gujarat was very different from Odisha. Earlier on Monday, the SC had in its order noted that Odisha has a “good record of having controlled the pandemic with very little loss of life.”
Apart from the state government, five third-party interveners had moved applications on Monday, seeking a modification of the June 20 order, where the HC division bench of the Chief Justice and Justice JB Pardiwala had directed there would be no Rath Yatras this year in Ahmedabad and other districts in Gujarat. The court had also directed that there would be no activities, secular or religious, associated with the Rath Yatra during this period.
The third-party interveners included a representative of NGO Hindu Yuva Vahini, a chartered accountant, a state BJP media cell member describing himself as a ‘staunch devotee’, and another “Lord Jagannath devotee.”
The Rath Yatra every year takes a break at the Gopal Lalji Ramji Mandir at Saraspur, a temple to the maternal uncle of Lord Jagannath, from where it returns around sundown on the day of Ashaadi Beej. A representative of this temple too had moved an application to be joined as a party seeking modification of the June 20 order.
Broadly, most had sought that the procession be allowed along a shorter route.
With the hearing that took place past midnight, the HC bench refused to allow the Rath Yatra for the second time in a span of less than 24 hours. Earlier on Monday, the court had refused to entertain the plea by Hindu Yuva Vahini, primarily on the ground that since the mahant of the Ahmedabad temple had not challenged the court’s stay order, a plea by the said NGO was “untenable”.
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