SC seeks details of Haj quota seats, their availability

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the Government of India (GoI) to apprise it about the total allocation of Haj quota seats and the vacancies if any, on a plea of the Kerala Haj Committee alleging that the policy to grant state-wise quota for Haj pilgrims was discriminatory.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, representing the Centre, to file an affidavit by Thursday giving details of the total Haj quota seats and the figure of such seats which are yet to be allocated.

During the hearing, the ASG said the Union of India had been allowed by the Saudi Arabian government to send 1.75 lakh Haj pilgrims every year and the GoI and the Central Haj Committee, in consultation with the state Haj panels, have devised a mechanism to distribute the quota on the basis of the Muslim population in each state.

Out of 1.75 lakh Haj seats, 1.25 lakh seats are distributed by the state Haj committees while the remaining seats are given to private tour operators as per the policy decision, the law officer said.

Earlier, the apex court, in an interim direction, had asked the GoI to file a statement with regard to the fifth time applicants who have crossed the age of 65 years and were below 70 years and have never been able to go for the Haj.

The apex court, on January 5, had issued the notice sought to the GoI on the Kerala Haj Committee’s plea alleging that the policy to grant state-wise quota for Haj pilgrims was discriminatory.

The Kerala Haj committee, in its plea, had referred to the example of Bihar and said it gets 12,000 Haj seats as 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 pilgrimage, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the committee, had said.

“As a result, every applicant in Bihar gets the opportunity to go for Haj. However, in Kerala, the situation is unpleasant,” he had said, adding that there should be an all-India draw of lots to decide who will go on Haj.

The Kerala Haj Committee alleged that the present quota system was discriminatory.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the GoI, had 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. (PTI)

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