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Apex court wants VIP quota for Haj to go

Delhi,Immigration/Law/Rights,Religion, Mon, 16 Apr 2012 IANS

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday said the "goodwill" delegation that the government sends every year during Haj to Saudi Arabia has become some kind of VIP quota and was not in conformity with religious duty and it should be stopped.


An apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai said the government has proposed to reduce the strength of the "goodwill" delegation to one plus nine, but it should come down to one plus three or four and eventually should cease.


"You have suggested that you will reduce it to one plus nine, but we want it at one plus three or four and that should be also be discontinued in the next few years," the court told the government.


Justice Alam said the visit by the goodwill delegation was started in 1967, as a goodwill gesture to the Saudi Arabian government and could not be allowed to go on in perpetuity. The court said it has become some kind of VIP quota and was not in conformity with religious duty.


The government told the court that it intends to reduce the present strength of the "goodwill" delegation from existing 32 people to ten.


The affidavit filed by the government said that besides conveying India's goodwill to Saudi Arabia government, the delegation also interacts with the "Haj pilgrims from India, understands their issues and takes up the same with Saudi Arabian authorities."


"The delegation addresses these issues in their meetings with the Minister of Haj, Saudi Arabia and the Governor of Makkah," the affidavit said.


The goodwill delegation that first went in 1967 had three members which peaked to 35 in 2005.


The court was told that the subsidy per Haji was Rs.38,800 in 2011 which was Rs.5,000 17 years back in 1994. The total Haj subsidy in 2011 was Rs.685 crore, while it was Rs.10.51 crore in 1994.


In the current year 1,70,000 Hajis would be going from India to Makkah. In 2011 the total number of Indian Hajis who travelled to Makkah was 1,70,491. Based on a resolution passed by the Organization of Islamic Countries, the Saudi Arabia authorities allocate 1,000 pilgrims for every one million Muslim population.


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