In a first, none of the top members of the Haj Committee of India, including its chairperson, will organise this year’s Haj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage, following a Delhi High Court order.
The court on Wednesday struck down solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium’s appeal that the top brass be allowed to function so that Haj arrangements don’t suffer. The court said the joint secretary in-charge of Haj in the external affairs ministry could temporarily oversee Haj arrangements instead.
Annual Haj operations, a Rs 800-crore exercise, have been dogged by allegations of irregularities. Subramanium appeared on behalf of Haj Committee chairperson Mohsina Kidwai, a Congress leader, and two of her deputies, all of who have been barred from functioning due to alleged irregularities in the Haj Committee’s elections.
“They will not function till disposal of the writ petition (filed by al-Haram Khudamul Hujjaj, a Delhi-based Haj services society),” the Delhi High Court bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and Valmiki Mehta said.
The society had sought the court’s intervention, citing irregularities in the way Haj affairs were being run. “Various elections to the Haj Committee have been held without following rules under the Haj Act,” Tariq Siddiqui, lawyer appearing for the aggrieved party said.
The Haj Committee had declared Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai as chairperson elected on March 10, despite a court order that very day, stalling all elections.
The Haj panel is a statutory body with 23 members — four are joint secretaries of ministries such as external affairs and civil aviation, who do not have voting powers. Of the other 19, 10 are government nominees and nine elected according to the Haj Committee Act.
“...The election to posts of Haj Committee (may) not be held till elections are held to the nine elected members of the Haj Committee in accordance with the Haj Committee Act 2002,” the court’s March 10 order had said.