New Delhi: The Supreme Court in an interim order on Tuesday struck down the Centre's policy of giving subsidies to Haj pilgrims. The court also asked the Centre to eliminate the policy of Haj subsidies over a period of ten years.
The apex court further said, "This (subsidies) amount can be more profitably used for social and educational development of the Muslim community."
The Supreme Court also directed the Centre to reduce the number of its representatives from 30 to two persons to be sent along with Haj delegations.
The division bench of the apex court headed by justice Aftab Alam said, "We hold that this policy (giving subsidies to Haj pilgrims) is best done away with."
This comes in the wake of some demands by other communities to also provide similar subsidies for pilgrimage.
The Supreme Court decision has been welcomed by the BJP, the Congress and the Muslim political class.
In 2009, CNN-IBN had exposed corruption in allocation of Haj quota and Minister SM Krishna has promised to change the system. CNN-IBN report showed that Kerala-based travel agency Al-Hind got a lion's share of the Haj quota.
Over the last few years various government committees that looked into the question of Haj subsidy have recommended its phasing out. Even Muslim leaders have argued that the Haj subsidy is "un-Islamic" and that Haj money should be invested in education and health instead of paying it to the national carrier Air India.