THE SUPREME Court on Monday stayed an Allahabad High Court order restraining the Centre from giving subsidy to Haj pilgrims.
The order came from a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal on the Centre's petition challenging the August 25 interim order of the high court. Clarifying that the stay order was limited to this year only, the Bench asked the high court to expeditiously decide the matter before Haj 2007.
The court also issued notices to the UP government and Shiv Sena leader B.N. Shukla, on whose petition the high court had passed the interim order.
On behalf of the Centre, Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati requested the Bench to stay the high court order saying it would derail the arrangement process for Haj 2006-II, which commenced in May and jeopardise the quota for sending 1.47 lakh pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. The invitation to tender for wet lease of aircraft had already been issued and if the high court orders were not stayed, it would be again put to jeopardy, he submitted.
He urged the court to stay the high court order, saying the larger issue could be considered later.
The court observed that there was no objection to the government making arrangements for pilgrims but direct financial subsidy was not permissible. It sought to know if in any other pilgrimage, the government gave concession/subsidy of this nature. When Vahanvati said the government was paying Rs 3,200 per pilgrim towards the Kailash Mansarovar yatra, the court said it was not a subsidy but an arrangement for the yatra.