Thanks to BJP, Judiciary steps in to check the Mamta’s attempt to Islamize West Bengal

published on September 4, 2013

Saugar Sengupta | Kolkata – Daily Pioneer

In a major setback to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Calcutta High Court on Monday struck down a State Government Order providing allowances to imams and muezzins.

Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the BJP, a Division Bench of the HC comprising Justices Pranab Kumar Chatterjee and Murari Prasad Shrivastava said the Government Order clearly violated Articles 14 and 15(1) of the Constitution.

Mamata Banerjee had on April 9, 2012 announced monthly allowances of `2,500 for imams and `1,500 for muezzins and got a budgetary allocation of `660 crore passed by the State Assembly. A task force was subsequently created by her to identify the beneficiaries. Out of about 75,000 imams in the State, about 30,000 are receiving the allowances, informed officials in the Ministry of Minority Affairs.

While State Minister Ghyasuddin Mollah refused to comment saying he would make a statement only after going through the HC judgement, West Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha welcomed the verdict, saying: “We had always opposed such discriminatory steps as they were against the secular fabric of the Constitution, which says the State cannot discriminate on grounds of religion. Our position stands vindicated.”

Quoting the High Court order, petitioner’s lawyer Kaushik Chanda said: “The court observed that giving allowance to imams and muezzins does not fall within the scope of public purpose” as mentioned in Article 282 of the Constitution. Striking down the Government Order under Article 226 of the Constitution, the court also fell back on the Supreme Court ruling in a 1993 case where the apex court had said that no religious functionaries could be paid from Government exchequer.

“The Supreme Court made it clear that payments for imams or similar functionaries could be made from the funds of Wakf Board. But here the Government had ordered that the necessary funds for allowances could be sourced from Government exchequer and paid through the Wakf Board which was in violation of not only of the Constitution but also of the apex court directive,” Chanda said. Standing on behalf of the State, Advocate General Bimal Chatterjee said imams worked for the public as can be seen from a Government decision in 2005 which roped in their service for Pulse Polio programme. The Government counsels contended that giving them allowance was a public purpose. However, the HC rejected the Government’s contention.

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