The Calcutta high court on Monday ruled the monthly allowance paid to imams and muezzins (those who say azaan, the call for prayer) by the Mamata Banerjee government violates the Constitution and the payment should be stopped immediately.
On April 9, 2012 the government had announced it will pay Rs. 2,500 to imams and Rs. 1,500 to muezzins per month. The money is being paid without an appropriate order for the past several months.
The government's counsel argued since the assembly had Okayed the expenditure incurred on the payment of the allowances, the court had no jurisdiction over the matter. But the court argued retorted that if legislators passed something that is unconstitutional, the court is within its right to adjudicate, and that article 226 of the Constitution empowers courts to do so.
The order would come as a setback for Mamata Banerjee, who is seen aggressively wooing the minorities believed to have voted for her party in the 2011 assembly game-changer polls. The allowance to imams and muezzins triggered a great storm in Bengal last year, with the opposition parties criticising the chief minister for appeasing the minorities.
After Monday's verdict, both CPI (M) and Congress leaders lambasted the government for such policies that contravene the Constitution. "The chief minister knew this measure is not legally tenable. She tried to hoodwink the people. She must apologise now," said Congress leader Abdul Mannan.