Haj subsidy: SC directs Allahabad HC to expedite hearings

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New Delhi, Jan 21 (UNI) The Supreme Court today directed the Allahabad High Court to expeditiously dispose of the petitions challenging the Government's decision to provide subsidy to Haj pilgrims to the tune of Rs 280 crores every year.

A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari, however, directed that the subsidy shall contiunue till the final disposal of the petitions in the High Court .

Petitioner B N Shukla in his petition has contended that similar subsidies should also be provided to pilgrims of other religions like Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhist, etc.

According to the petitioner, such subsidy is an unneccessary burden on the National Exchequer and the state provides subsidy of more than Rs one lakh to every Haj pilgrim, while no such facility is yet provided to the followers of other religion and it smacked off the policy of appeasement towards a particular community.

The High Court had restrained the Centre against providing subsidy to more than one lakh Haj pilgrim every year in August 2006.

The Central government filed an appeal against the order of the High Court and the Supreme Court vacated the stay on May 7, 2007.

UNI AKS/SC PY RP NE1618

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