The government will decide steps to be taken by it on the Supreme Court order to end Haj subsidy after receiving the judgement of the apex court on the issue, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said on Tuesday.
In its verdict on May 8, the Supreme Court had directed the government to phase out Haj subsidy within a period of 10 years, saying that this amount can be more profitably used for social and educational development of the Muslim community.
“They have given us an interim order. We are awaiting the final order of the Supreme Court. Once we get that, then we will decide that what will be our next step,” Mr. Krishna said when asked if the Government was planning to file an appeal against the apex court order.
He was talking to reporters on the sidelines of an All Indian Haj Committee function.
A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai had quoted Quran to justify doing away with the subsidy, which was around Rs 685 crores in 2011, noting that many Muslims would not be very “comfortable” to know that their Haj is funded to a large extent by the government.
A number of prominent Muslim leaders had welcomed the court’s order, saying that the subsidy was not exactly benefitting the community and the funds given in subsidy should be allocated for improving the educational and living standards.
Addressing the gathering, the External Affairs Minister said that he has been informed by the Haj Committee chairperson Mohsina Kidwai that the pilgrimage last year had passed off smoothly and was well organised.
“I would like to alert all the officers dealing with Haj 2012 not to let their guard down and remain alert and ahead of the plans and programmes for Haj 2012. Haj is such a complex and tedious operation that we can ill-afford complacency at any point in time,” he said.
Mr. Krishna said the government had decided to come out with its Haj policy for 2012 in January or February itself but it was delayed due to a pending case in the Supreme Court.
“It was only after the interim verdict was announced by the Court on May 8, 2012 that the Haj 2012 policy could be finalised and released and that was done on May 18,” he said.
Terming the conduct of Haj operations as one of the “most complex” tasks undertaken by India, the minister said this year’s Haj policy has been framed in close consultations with tour operators, Haj Committee and legal experts and a transparent procedure has been adopted by the government.
Mr. Krishna said from this year, Haj applications will have to be accompanied by proof of valid passports.
“The MEA has worked hard to bring about this significant change because of which every pilgrim this year will have a passport before proceeding on his pilgrimage. I am happy to state that the Haj Committee has received more applications this year than last year despite passport having being made compulsory,” he said.