Hajj goodwill delegations not needed: SC
‘GOI Should Do Away With The Practice Of Politicizing Pilgrimage’
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
New Delhi, Apr 16: Frowning over the practice of politicians and bureaucrats travelling on Hajj pilgrimage at government subsidy, the Supreme Court Monday told the Centre that these “goodwill delegations” need to be scrapped to ensure that only genuine pilgrims are benefited.
“These goodwill delegations need to be scrapped altogether. They are no longer relevant. Even a team of 9 to 10 persons is not required,” a bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai told Attorney General G E Vahanvati.
The apex court made the observation after Vahanvati and Centre’s counsel Harris Beran told the bench that these goodwill delegations are sent to Hajj every year to promote the country’s image as is being done by other countries.
However, the bench pointed out that the practice of sending goodwill delegations was started by India in 1967 after the Indo-Pak war as the neighboring state used the pilgrimage to launch anti-India campaign.
“This necessity is no longer there. We will gradually reduce it to four or five and then scrap it altogether,” the bench said.
Earlier, the attorney general submitted that in a bid to ensure that more pilgrims go for the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, the official goodwill delegations which earlier used to comprise 30 people have over the years been pruned to 9-10 persons.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Centre challenging a Bombay High Court judgment which had directed the Ministry of External Affairs to allow certain private operators to operate the services of 800 of the 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidized by the government.
At the earlier hearing, the bench had pulled up the Centre’s practice of “politicizing” Hajj by permitting official delegations to accompany the pilgrims, for which the government offers huge subsidy, saying, “It’s a bad religious practice.”
In an affidavit, the Centre told the court that it has decided to restrict Hajj pilgrimage at government subsidy to Muslims only as a “once in a lifetime” affair as against the existing policy of “once in five years”.
It said the new guidelines have been framed to ensure that priority is given to those applicants who have never performed Hajj.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 16 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 16 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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