Supreme Court dismisses plea to stop Haj subsidy

Friday, January 28, 2011

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Friday dismissed a petition by former Bharatiya Janata Party MP and Hindu ideologue Praful Goradia seeking the abolition of the subsidy given to Haj pilgrims.

There is no force in this petition and it is dismissed, the court said.

The court also said that a very small expenditure in proportion to the entire tax collected was being spent on the pilgrims belonging to different religions.

The apex court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra also noted that we must not be too rigid in these matters and need to adopt a balanced view.

We cannot say that even if one paisa of the government is spent for a particular religion there will be violation of Article 27 (of the constitution), the court said.

The order observed that despite its tremendous diversity, India is still united.

Only policy which can work and provide for stability and progress is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities, sects and denominations etc, it further said.

Goradia had contended that the money given to the Haj pilgrims came from the direct and indirect taxes he and others paid to the exchequer and this was violative of the Articles 14, 15 and 27 of the constitution.

The petition underlined his Hindu identity.

The Article 27 of the constitution reads: No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in the payment of expanses for the promotion and maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.

The court said that there could be two views about Article 27. One view can be that Article 27 is attracted only when the statute by which the tax is levied specifically states that the proceeds of the tax will be utilised for a particular religion.

The other view, the court said, can be that Article 27 will be attracted even when the statute is a general statute, like the Income Tax Act or the Central Excise Act or the State Sales Tax Acts (which do not specify for what purpose the proceeds will be utilized), provided that a substantial part of such proceeds are in fact utilised for a particular religion.

In our opinion, if only a relatively small part of any tax collected is utilised for providing some conveniences or facilities or concessions to any religious denomination, that would not be violative of Article 27 of the constitution,” the bench said.

“It is only when a substantial part of the tax is utilised for any particular religion that Article 27 would be violated, the judges observed.

Referring to the affidavit filed by the central government, the court noted: State government incurs some expenditure for the Kumbh Mela, the central government incurs expenditure for facilitating Indian citizens going on pilgrimage to Mansarover.

The court also referred to the Punjab government providing facilities to Hindus and Sikh pilgrims to visit temples and Gurdwaras in Pakistan.

It found no merit in Gordia’s petition and dismissed it.

Filed under: Religion

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