Government defends allocation of pilgrims quota under Haj policy

The government made its stand to a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y.Chandrachud on a plea by the Kerala State Haj Committee which has questioned the allocation of Haj quota on the basis of Muslim population that deprives Muslims in smaller states including Kerala from undertaking the pilgrimages to Makkah and Madina. Giving the government 10 days time to respond to the plea by Kerala, the bench gave a week's time to Kerala Haj Committee to file rejoinder if any and directed the next hearing of the matter on January 30. The court was told that Saudi Arabian government allows India to send 1.7 lakh Haj pilgrims which in turn are distributed to the states in proportion to their Muslim population. Appearing for the Kerala Haj Committee, counsel Prashant Bhushan described the policy as "arbitrary" and "discriminatory", saying that more people in Kerala are desirous to undertake the Haj pilgrimage than in Bihar. Bhushan told the court that Bihar gets the quota of 12,000 pilgrims but only gets 6,900 applicants to go and Kerala get a share of 6,000 seats while there are 95,000 applicants. "As a result, every applicant in Bihar gets the opportunity to go for Haj. However, in Kerala, the situation is not so," he said. However, Attorney General K.K.Venugopal defended the Haj policy saying that it was formulated by the Central Haj Committee after consulting 31 State Haj Committees.--IANS
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