The Calcutta High Court on Monday rejected the honorarium announced by the state government for imams and muezzins,ruling it to be unconstitutional and against public interest.
On April 9 last year,Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a monthly honorarium of Rs 2,500 each for all imams of mosques.
A month later,the state cabinet decided to give a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,000 each to muezzins also.
Hearing a PIL filed by the state BJP and others,the division bench of Justices Pranab Chatterjee and M P Srivastav today held that the state governments decision violated Articles 14 and 15/1 of the Constitution,which provide that the state shall not discriminate on grounds of religion,race,caste,sex or place of birth.
Observing that imams and muezzins cannot be treated as a separate community,the court said payment of such allowances on the basis of religion is illegal.
The court also held that the state government cannot pay such honorarium through the Wakf Board as it does not serve a public purpose.
The state government is reported to have disbursed Rs 162 crore to the Wakf Board for providing the honorarium to about 25,000 imams and 13,000 muezzins.
In its affidavit,the state government claimed it decided to pay the honorarium under Article 282 of the constitution,as the imams and muezzins are poor and their children cannot attend school due to poverty.
We will decide on our next course of action after we go through the verdict. But I assure the beneficiaries that this government stands by them and it will do everything to safeguard the interests of the poor, said Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim.