Centre`s Haj policy under SC scanner

Last Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012 - 20:14

New Delhi: The government`s Haj policy on Friday
came under judicial scrutiny with the Supreme Court directing
the Centre to provide details of subsidy given by it and
criteria adopted for allocation of seats to state committees.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai,
who frowned on the practice of sending official delegations to
accompany the pilgrims, asked the Centre to furnish entire
details regarding Haj subsidy, as to how it is decided and
since when the subsidy began.

The bench also asked the government to provide details of
the prime minister`s `goodwill delegation` of the past 10
years and the list of people who had gone on the delegation.

It directed that entire history of the delegation, as
well as its circumstances, how many seats, the increase in
number and the purpose for which it is provided must be given
along with how persons are chosen to be sent in the `goodwill`
quota.

Attorney General GE Vahanvati and counsel Harris Beran
appearing for the government agreed to respond to the queries
raised by the court and sought time for the same.

The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Centre
challenging a Bombay High Court judgement which had directed
the Ministry of External Affairs to allow certain private
operators to operate the services of 800 pilgrims out of the
11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidised by
the government.

Earlier, the bench had pulled up the Centre`s practice of
"politicising" the annual Haj pilgrimage by permitting
official delegations to accompany the pilgrims, for which the
government offers huge subsidy, saying, "It`s a bad religious
practice."

"What kind of practise is this? May be it has political
use. It is a bad religious practise. It is not really Haj,"
the bench had said.

The apex court had minced no words in expressing
displeasure at the manner in which VIPs, particularly
government officials, go on the pilgrimage at the cost of the
state exchequer.

PTI




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