New Delhi: In a hearing past Monday midnight, a two-judge bench of the Gujarat High Court led by Chief Justice Vikram Nath refused to recall its earlier order barring the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad.
Chief Justice Nath and Justice J.B. Pardiwala announced the order at 2 am Tuesday, after more than an hour-long hearing that had commenced at 12.45 am.
On 20 June, the high court had ordered that no religious activities associated with the Rath Yatra or the procession will be allowed this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It had drawn on the Supreme Court’s 18 June direction that restrained the Jagannath temple authorities in Odisha’s Puri from holding the yatra altogether amid the coronavirus crisis.
However, the top court modified its order Monday, allowing the yatra to be held only in Puri with conditions.
The applicants, including the Gujarat government, rushed to the high court within hours of this new direction.
The court, however, declined to grant permission, after observing that the Covid-19 situation in Ahmedabad cannot be compared to the situation in Puri or Odisha.
“Despite the fact that assurance being given by the State and all other applicants we still do not find any good ground to recall or modify our order dated 20 June,” ruled the bench. Due to paucity of time, the court did not pass a detailed order giving its reasons.
Gujarat govt moved court after 9 pm
A flurry of activity began at the Gujarat High Court’s registry Monday evening as soon as the Supreme Court’s order was out.
The first two applications were filed immediately after the top court pronounced its order around 5 pm. Both asked the court to permit the yatra covering the shortest possible route.
While the court office circulated the two applications at 6.30 pm for urgent hearing, two more were received by e-mail at 6.50 pm and 6.52 pm, respectively. Then, two more were filed within half an hour on behalf of Hindu Yuva Vahini — a Hindu youth group founded by Yogi Adityanath.
A civil application filed by the Gujarat government was received at 9.35 pm in the registry, and another plea on behalf of the Jagannath Mandir Trust in Patan was received at 11 pm. At 11.30 pm, the registry got the last application asking the court to modify its order.
“The main ground was the order passed by the Supreme Court on 22 June, which was uploaded sometime in the evening relating to the Jagannath Mandir at Puri of Orissa State,” the court records in its order.
According to the 20 June order, the state police and Ahmedabad civic bodies also have to apprise the court as to why no decision was taken on permissions sought by the organiser of the yatra earlier, forcing them to approach the court with the request.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation commissioner, the Ahmedabad police commissioner and the additional chief secretary (home) have to file their affidavits giving reasons why the applications were not disposed of well within time and “keeping the matter looming at large till the end”.
The court will take up this matter on 6 July.