SC seeks Centre’s reply on Kerala body’s plea on discrimination in Haj quota
The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to respond to allegations of discrimination in its policy for state-wise quota for Haj pilgrims. The directive came after the Kerala Haj committee filed a petition relating to the all-India draw of lots to decide allocation of Haj quota.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud asked the Central government to file its response within two weeks. The next hearing of the case is scheduled on January 30.
The Kerala Haj Committee stated in its plea that the Indian government has been allowed by the UAE government to send 1.7 lakh Haj pilgrims every year. The Central government distributes quota on the basis of the Muslim population in each state. The Haj committee referred to the example of Bihar and said it gets 12,000 Haj seats against the total number of applicants of 6,900. In stark contrast, Kerala gets 6,000 seats against 95,000 applicants desirous to go for the Haj pilgrimage, said lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the committee. “As a result, every applicant in Bihar gets the opportunity to go for Haj. However, in Kerala, the situation is unpleasant,” he said.
The bench also questioned the rationale in allotting 25 per cent quota for private tour operators. Bhushan added there should be an all-India draw of lots to decide who will go on Haj.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, justified the present quota policy saying it had been devised by the Central Haj Committee after considering the suggestions of 31 different state Haj committees.
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