SC admits petition challenging subsidy for Haj pilgrims

via published on July 28, 2008

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday admitted a petition questioning the constitutional validity of a legislation providing annual financial assistance to Muslims going on the Haj.

A Bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and L S Panta issued notice to the Centre on the petition challenging the Haj Committee Act, 1959 providing special subsidy to the Muslim community for the pilgrimage.

The petition filed by Prafull Goradia, a former BJP MP, alleged that the estimated Rs 280 crore annually incurred by the Government for funding the Haj pilgrimage was not only unconstitutional but a drain on the tax payers’ money.

He contended that the provision for special subsidy to Muslims, without any similar assistance to others like Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs, was violating the Constitution as the State cannot discriminate between the citizens on the grounds of religion, caste or creed.

The petition has quoted various provisions of the Constitution, including Article 27, which provided, “that no person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated for the payment of expenses for the promotion and maintenance of any particular religion or religious denominance…”

The special financial assistance to the Haj pilgrims from the taxpayers’ money was discriminatory as no such facilities were being extended to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and other communities.

The petitioner argued that other communities too had their own special pilgrim places located in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Vatican, Japan, Cambodia and elsewhere but no such financial assistance was being extended to them.

Besides seeking declaration of the Haj Act as unconstitutional, the petition urged the apex court to restrain the Government from using the tax payers’ money for funding the Haj pilgrimage in future.

It also sought a court direction to the Government to refund the tax payers’ their money used all these years for funding the Haj pilgrimages.
<br. a="" similar="" petition="" by="" uttar="" pradesh="" challenging="" an="" order="" of="" allahabad="" high="" court="" restraining="" government="" from="" subsidising="" haj="" pilgrimage="" is="" also="" pending="" in="" the="" apex="" court.

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