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SC declines relief to AP on pilgrimage to Jerusalem

The Supreme Court Monday refused to interfere with the Andhra Pradesh High Court order staying the state government`s special scheme providing financial subsidy to Christians going on pligrimage to Jerusalem.



New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday refused to
interfere with the Andhra Pradesh High Court order staying
the state government`s special scheme providing financial
subsidy to Christians going on pligrimage to Jerusalem.

A Bench of Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan,
however, asked the state High Court to dispose off within four
months the petition challenging the Constitutional validity of
the scheme announced by the state government in July 2008.

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Sathasivam said it found
no reason to interfere with the High Court`s decision as it
was only an interim order.

However, the apex court agreed with Andhra Pradesh`s
counsel C K Sucharita`s argument that certain observations
made by the High Court in its interim order that the state did
not have the jurisdiction to dole out subsidy for pligrimages
outside the country and that such expenditure from public
exchequer was violative of Article 27 of the Constitution
"were unwarranted".

The Bench asked the High Court to dispose off the writ
petition "uninfluenced" by the observations made in the
interim order.

Under the scheme announced by late chief minister Y S
Rajasekhar Reddy, Andhra Pradesh government had spent about Rs
100 lakh in 2008-2009 to provide a subsidy of Rs 20,000 to
each Christian pilgrim intending to visit Jerusalem.

Similarly, Rs 50 lakh was spent in 2009-2010 for sending
pilgrims to the holy town.

However, on the basis of a petition filed by one G Mohan
Rao questioning the policy, the High Court had on July 22,
2009, suspended the government order and restrained the state
from further rendering any financial assistance to the
pilgrimage.

Aggrieved, the state appealed in the apex court.

According to Article 27, "no person shall be compelled to
pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically
appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or
maintenance of any particular religion or religions
denomination.”

Mohan Rao had alleged the policy of extending subsidy to
Christians and Muslims (Haj) was discriminatory as no such
benefits was accorded to the Hindu community.

PTI

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