In a setback to the Centre’s Haj policy, the Supreme Court on Monday turned down its proposal for a discretionary quota of over 11,000 Haj pilgrims a year from among 1.25 lakh pilgrims and reduced such allocations to only 500, including 200 for the Haj committee.
A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai fixed the discretionary quota for the President at 100; the Vice President and the Prime Minister at 75 each; the External Affairs Minister at 50 and the Haj Committee of India (HCOI) at 200 (as against the proposed 500).
On May 8, the court had directed the Centre to totally phase out the Haj subsidy in 10 years, holding that there was no provision in the Holy Quran for undertaking the visit to Mecca at the expense of the government or others. It had also expressed its reservations over the discretionary quotas.
On Monday, the Bench perused an affidavit filed by the Ministry of External Affairs proposing a quota of 5,500 pilgrims to be chosen on the recommendations from the offices of the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, External Affairs Minister, 33 other Union Cabinet Ministers, 31 Governors/Lt Governors and 30 Chief Ministers, besides MPs, eminent persons and senior government officers. Under the allocations proposed by the Ministry, 1,500 seats were reserved for Jammu and Kashmir; 2,500 seats for states/UTs with applications in excess of their allocated quota for Haj 2012; 2,550 were reserved for dignitaries and eminent persons for needy nominees who had not been successful in the Haj Qurrah of the year.
The bench made it clear that it had no objection to allocation of seats for Haj under government rules but said that “this court feels that representation has to be made on reasonable basis.” However, it also clarified that its remark was not meant for the President and the Prime Minister. The Bench asked the High Courts not to entertain any petition relating to Haj and transfer all such petitions to the Supreme Court.