Do away with Hajj subsidy in 10 years: SC to GoI
‘Send Only Two Representatives With Goodwill Delegation’
New Delhi, May 8: The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the government’s policy of giving subsidies to Hajj pilgrims and directed that it be progressively “eliminated” within a period of 10 years.
A Division Bench of the Apex Court consisting of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desaid ruled: “We hold that this policy is best done away with.”
The bench also directed the government to reduce to two the number of its representatives in the Prime Minister’s goodwill delegation. At present, the goodwill delegation consists of 30 members.
The Court observed that it will look into the functioning of Hajj Committee of India particularly the process for selecting people for Hajj pilgrimage. The Court further directed the Centre to reduce the number of its representatives to be sent along with Hajj delegation.
The Apex court had expressed strong resentment at the practice of sending official delegations to accompany the pilgrims. It had, earlier, asked the Centre to furnish entire details regarding Hajj subsidy, as also to the criteria adopted.
The Court ruling came while it 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 handle 800 of the 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidised by the government. The Bench while hearing the plea of the Centre had expanded the purview of the plea and decided to look into the legality of the government’s policy on granting subsidies to Hajj pilgrims.
Earlier in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court on April 12, the Centre had informed that it has decided to restrict Hajj pilgrimage at government subsidy as a “once in a lifetime” affair as against the existing policy of “once in five years”. The government had said that the new guidelines have been framed to ensure that priority is given to those applicants who have never performed Hajj.
However, the government had refrained from disclosing the amount of subsidy being incurred by it for 2012 saying, “the exact figure in respect of the travel subsidy to the pilgrims going through Hajj Committee of India for 2012 will be known after the Hajis return to India after completing their Hajj journey.”
According to the government, priority will be given to those who are in the 70 plus category and those who had unsuccessfully applied thrice earlier for the subsidy.
The apex court had frowned at the practice of sending official delegations to accompany the pilgrims and had asked the Centre to furnish entire details regarding Haj subsidy, as also to the criteria adopted.
‘GOVT WAS WORKING IN THE SAME DIRECTION’
Welcoming the Supreme Court order, Law Minister Salman Khurshid today said the government had been working on the issue “in the same direction” over the years.
“The issue of Hajj subsidy has been already under consideration for over the last four years and discussions had taken place for roll back of Hajj subsidy,” Khurshid told reporters outside Parliament House.
He said along with rollback, the government was also working towards ensuring that there was no burden on pilgrims and the financial arrangements with the airlines were “more viable”. WITH INPUTS FROM PTI
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 9 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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