New Delhi: Modifying its earlier order, the Supreme Court of India on Monday has allowed the centuries-old annual Rath Yatra at Jagannath Puri temple in the state of Odisha this year with no devotees in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said it will leave it to the Jagannath Temple Management Trust, Centre and Odisha government to conduct the festival in a very restricted manner without allowing devotee congregation.

The Odisha state government informed that apex court that it will coordinate with the Centre to hold the world famous Rath Yatra.

The Centre told the top court that Rath Yatra in Puri’s Jagannath temple, can be allowed without public participation in view of the COVID-19 epidemic. The central government said that the tradition of centuries may not be stopped. The Odisha government also supported the Centre’s stand.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who mentioned the matter before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, said that it is a matter of faith for crores of people. If Lord Jagannath will not come out tomorrow, he cannot come out for 12 years as per traditions.

The solicitor General said that besides maintaining precautions, the Odisha government can impose curfew for a day.

The solicitor General told the apex court that all ‘sebayats’ and ‘pandas’ who have tested negative for COVID-19 can participate in rituals as may be decided by HH Shri Shankarachary. People may not congregate and seek blessings on TV during live telecast. Raja of Puri and the temple committee may supervise arrangements of these rituals.

The Puri Rath Yatra, which is attended by millions of people from across the world, is scheduled from June 23 and is held over 10-12 days.

A triple bench comprising of chief justice SA Bobde and justices Dineesh Maheshwari and AS Bopanna on June 18 stayed the Jagannath Puri yatra, saying that we cannot be allowed this year in the interest of the public health safety of the countrymen. If we allow this year to organise rathyatra and other related activities then Lord Jagannath will not forgive us, 

Some applications were filed in the top court seeking recall and modification of its order, after the stay order was passed by the apex court.