The government’s Haj policy today came under judicial scrutiny with the Supreme Court directing the Centre to provide details of subsidy given by it and criteria adopted for allocation of seats to state committees.
A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai,who frowned on the practice of sending official delegations to accompany the pilgrims,asked the Centre to furnish entire details regarding Haj subsidy,as to how it is decided and since when the subsidy began.
The bench also asked the government to provide details of the prime minister’s ‘goodwill delegation’ of the past 10 years and the list of people who had gone on the delegation.
It directed that entire history of the delegation,as well as its circumstances,how many seats,the increase in number and the purpose for which it is provided must be given along with how persons are chosen to be sent in the ‘goodwill’ quota.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati and counsel Harris Beran appearing for the government agreed to respond to the queries raised by the court and sought time for the same.
The apex court 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 operate the services of 800 pilgrims out of the 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidised by the government.
Earlier,the bench had pulled up the Centre’s practice of “politicising” the annual Haj pilgrimage by permitting official delegations to accompany the pilgrims,for which the government offers huge subsidy,saying,”It’s a bad religious practice.”
“What kind of practise is this? May be it has political use. It is a bad religious practise. It is not really Haj,” the bench had said.
The apex court had minced no words in expressing displeasure at the manner in which VIPs,particularly government officials,go on the pilgrimage at the cost of the