Andhra HC stays state govt's order of funding Christian pilgrimages

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Hyderabad, July 23 (ANI): Staying the state government's order of providing financial assistance to Christian pilgrimage to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Wednesday ruled that the state government should not spend public money for any such pilgrimage.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice A R Dave gave this ruling in response to a Public Interest Litigation challenging the constitutional validity of the order issued by the minorities welfare department on July 21 last year.

The petitioner argued that a secular state couldn't fund a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other holy places.

He contended that the Indian Constitution in Article 266 clearly states how the funds of the state could be spent.

Under the last year's order, the state government had announced a financial assistance of 20,000 rupees to each Christian pilgrim undertaking a seven-day tour to Jordan and Israel.

The first batch of 51 Christian pilgrims had undertaken the pilgrimage with government assistance in November last year. The total cost of the pilgrimage was 56,000 rupees per pilgrim.

The pilgrimage includes visits to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jordan River, Dead Sea and theSea of Galilee and other important places connected with the life of Jesus Christ.

The state government had allocated 20 million rupees for the purpose in its 2008-09 Budget. (ANI)

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