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Restriction of Rath Yatra by police amounts to interference with religious practice: Calcutta High Court

Earlier, the West Bengal Police had issued a guideline stating that the worshippers may use chariots to transport the deity up to a particular point.

The Calcutta High Court came down heavily on the State Police for not allowing a chariot parade in Sankrail, Howrah, for this year’s Jagannath Rath Yatra. The court criticised the Police and remarked that the conditions that they had imposed amounted to interference with religious practice.

Justice Rajasekhar Mantha ruled that requiring the deity to travel without a chariot for around 300 metres would be exceedingly inappropriate. He further asserted that the same will invalidate, defeat, and jeopardise the Rath Yatra’s mission and purpose.

The Court said, “Over the decades and centuries, people of all religious denominations have participated with joy and actively supported Rath Yatra in this State. To restrict a Rath Yatra, and to impose conditions, therefore, would amount to interference with a religious practice which has not happened in this State or any other part of the country, till date.”

Earlier, the West Bengal Police had issued a guideline stating that the worshippers may use chariots to transport the deity up to a particular point. Afterward, the worshippers were asked that they must discharge the deity and carry them by hand to the temple due to traffic constraints.

The case proceedings

On June 16, the Petitioner sought permission from the Court to hold a Rath Yatra march in a particular region. But the court asked him to seek clearance from the proper authorities. Displeased by the Police’s response, the petitioner filed this urgent petition before the Honourable Court on the 19th of June.

In their application dated June 19, the petitioners requested the court to modify the order passed on June 16, 2023. Specifically, they sought permission from the court to physically carry the deity from the temple near the Delta Jute Mill gate to Beltala More. Additionally, they requested authorisation to proceed further on the chariot from Beltala More to KDT Pole and beyond if necessary.

After hearing both parties, the court stated that to require the petitioner to physically carry the deity from the temple located near the Delta Jute Mill gate to Beltala More without a chariot would negate, defeat and compromise the object and purpose of the Rath Yatra.

The court added, “A Rath Yatra as folklore and mythology would have, meant for the deity Lord Jagannath and Balabhadra to travel on a chariot from their house to their sister’s house/aunt’s house to visit and to see an unwell aunt.”

However, the court didn’t modify its earlier order dated June 16, 2023.

The court said, “The petitioner shall as already directed earlier, maintain peace and harmony in the procession of the Rath Yatra.”

The court also asked the police to take appropriate and stern procedural measures in case there is an anticipation of any vested interest or elements trying to disrupt the religious function. Subsequently, the court disposed of the petition.

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Searched termsRath Yatra India
OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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