The Supreme Court issued an interim order on Wednesday asking Bhaktapur District Administrative Office (DAO) not to stop Biska Jatra festivities.

A local resident of Bhaktapur, Raj Kumar Suwal, had filed a case in the Supreme Court against Bhaktapur DAO’s decision to stop this year’s Jatra celebration because of COVID-19 infection risk.

A single bench of Justice Purushottam Bhandari yesterday stayed the DAO’s decision to halt the festival.

Sanjay Adhikari, an advocate who pleaded on behalf of the plaintiff, had argued that Bhaktapur DAO, which is a federal government body, did not have the jurisdiction to take decisions on matters related to culture and tradition that fall under the jurisdiction of the local government.

A meeting of the District COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre chaired by Bhaktapur DAO had earlier decided to hold the festival with limited number of priests without erecting the lingo or pulling chariots of the deities, the two core traditions of the Biska Jatra without which the festival cannot be completed, keeping in mind the increasing cases of COVID-19.

The festival not celebrated last year as well due to the pandemic.

Locals, priests, and heritage activists had been staging protests in Bhaktapur against DAO’s decision not to hold Biska Jatra, stating that the Office had failed to involve guthiyars and priests, who organise the festival, in the decision-making process.

Thousands of devotees, tourists, and spectators throng Bhaktapur to take part in Biska Jatra. The Jatra is celebrated for nine days around the Nepali New Year.