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The court also said that the government’s “goodwill delegation” to Mecca must not exceed two members. It currently has 30 people.
India provides billions of rupees every year to people going on the Hajj.
Pilgrims apply through the Hajj Committee of India and are offered a concessionary fare on the national airline, Air India.
Every year, about 125,000 pilgrims take the subsidy.
The pilgrims are charged 16,000 rupees ($302; £187) air fare. A regular Delhi-Jeddah flight would cost about double that.
Last month, the government told the Supreme Court that it had decided to restrict the subsidy to one pilgrimage per person.
At the moment, it is available to a Hajj pilgrim once every five years.
The government also said that priority would be given to pilgrims older than 70 and those who had never visited Mecca.
NDTV input: New Delhi | Reported by A Vaidyanathan | Updated: May 08, 2012 : The Supreme Court wants the central government to phase out its policy of giving subsidies to Haj pilgrims.
Here are the 10 big facts of the case:
1. Directing the government to progressively “eliminate” its subsidy within a period of 10 years, a bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said today, “We hold that this (subsidy) policy is best done away with.” This interim order is also applicable to the Haj pilgrimage of 2012.
2. The bench also directed the government to reduce the number of its representatives in the Prime Minister’s goodwill delegation from 30 to two.
3. The court also said that it will look into the functioning of Haj Committee of India and its process for selecting people for the pilgrimage.
4. The 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 handle 800 of the 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidised by the government.
5. The bench had expanded the purview of the plea and decided to look into the legality of the government’s policy on granting subsidies to Haj pilgrims.
6. Muslim members of Parliament have welcomed the decision. “The Haj subsidy of Rs. 600 crore is given to Air India and not pilgrims… Under this garb of subsidy, it (money) is going to Air India which is a sick airline,” Majlis-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi told reporters.
7. A senior member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Niyaz Farooqi, said that pilgrims do not get the benefits of the Haj subsidy. The government should shift focus on providing better accommodation and food facility to the pilgrims, he said adding, “Despite the subsidy, pilgrims have to pay extra for the trip.”
8. In an affidavit, the Centre had told the court that it has decided to restrict Haj pilgrimage at government subsidy to Muslims only as a “once in a lifetime” affair as against the existing policy of “once in five years”. It had said the new guidelines have been framed to ensure that priority is given to those applicants who have never performed Haj.
9. The government, however, 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 Haj Committee of India for 2012 will be known after the Hajis completed their Haj journey and return to India.”
10. India has a quota of 1.70 lakh pilgrims every year. Of these, about 1.25 lakh are selected through Haj committees. Rest of the pilgrims go through private operators. The government subsidy is approximately Rs. 40,000 for each pilgrim selected by the Haj Committees. (with PTI inputs).
Phase out Haj subsidy in ten years: SC to govt.
HT input: The Supreme Court today struck down the government’s policy of giving subsidies to Haj pilgrims and directed that it should be progressively “eliminated” within a period of 10 years.
“We hold that this policy is best done away with,” a bench of justices Altamas Kabir and Ranjana Prakash Desai held.
The bench also directed the government to reduce to two the number of its representatives in the Prime Minister’s goodwill delegation.
It said it will look into the functioning of Haj Committee of India and it process for selecting people for Haj pilgrimage.
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 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 Haj pilgrims.
During the hearing in the case, the Centre had defended the policy of giving subsidies to the Haj pilgrims and had said it had framed guidelines so that people get subsidies only once in their lifetime. Read details.