The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to eliminate the Haj subsidy in 10 years, saying many Muslims would not be "comfortable" with government funding of the pilgrimage.
A bench of justice Aftab Alam and justice Ranjana Prakash Desai said the money could be used for social and educational development of Muslims.
Ordering downscaling of the PM's goodwill delegation to two, it directed the Centre to file an affidavit regarding the manner in which the quota of 11,000 seats was allocated for the Haj pilgrimage last year. The bench, however, upheld the Centre's Haj policy for 2012 vis-à-vis registering private tour operators.
Quoting from the Holy Quran, the bench said Haj was obligatory when one had control over travel expenses. The court noted that borrowing or using means owned by someone else was not permissible.
Muslim leaders welcomed the order. "Haj subsidy of Rs 600 crore is given to Air India and not pilgrims. Under this garb, it is going to Air India, a sick airline," Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said.