SC clears decks for Haj pilgrimage, sets aside Kerala HC order

Setting aside a Kerala High Court order, the Supreme Court today gave the green signal to the Centre to arrange for the Haj pilgrimage.

New Delhi: Setting aside a Kerala High
Court order, the Supreme Court today gave the green signal to
the Centre to arrange for the Haj pilgrimage, expected to
commence from the second week of October, of 45,419 pilgrims
through private tour operators.

A Bench of Justices Mukundakam Sharma and A R Dave
permitted the Centre to go ahead with its plan after setting
aside the High Court order which had quashed the Government`s
Haj Policy for 2010 on the ground that it was arbitrary.

The apex court, however, clarified that it was
allowing the Centre to go ahead with the present policy since
interference by it at this juncture "may cause confusion and
open the Pandora`s box," but was keeping the "question of law
on the issue open."

The Bench passed the direction after senior counsel K
K Venugopal appearing for the Union Government submitted that
the Kerala High Court`s order would seriously impede this
year`s Haj pilgrimage.

In its judgement on September 13, the High Court had
quashed the Centre`s Haj Policy 2010 on the ground that its
June 1, 2010 circular restricting the eligibility of the tour
operators to only those with two year`s minimum registration
as being arbitrary.

The High Court had passed the order after some of the
aggrieved tour operators contended that the policy eliminated
several other tour operators and was in violation of the
earlier orders passed by the apex court.

Senior counsel Nageswara Rao, appearing for the
aggrieved operators, contended that though they had all the
necessary eligibility and infrastructural capabilities, yet,
the restrictions imposed by the Centre in the name of two
years minimum registration eliminated them from the race.

The apex court said that though they might have a
valid argument, yet if the High Court order was not set aside,
it would affect the progress of the pilgrimage.

However, it recorded an undertaking from the Union
Government that for the year 2011 it would consider and give
preference to the aggrieved tour operators also if they are
found to be qualified for carrying out the task.

Accordingly, it disposed of the petition, while
keeping the question of law open on the Centre`s Haj Policy
2010 vis-a-vis private tour operators.

Apart from the 45,491 pilgrims transported by private
tour operators, over 1.50 lakh other pilgrims will be
undertaking the Haj this yearunder the aegis of the Central
Haj Committee.


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