The Supreme Court will hear on Sep 18 a special leave petition (SLP) against a Allahabad High Court judgment quashing the central government's policy of granting financial subsidy to Haj pilgrims every year.
A three-judge bench comprising Justices BN Agrawal, PP Naolekar and Lokeshwar Singh Panta fixed the date of hearing after filing of the SLP was mentioned by Solicitor General GE Vahanvati.
Considering the urgency involved, Vahanvati pleaded for stay of the impugned judgment dated Aug 25, but the bench said the matter would be heard on Sep 18 when he could press for a stay.
The Allahabad High Court had restrained the central government from releasing any funds or subsidy for this year's Haj pilgrimage on a petition from BN Shukla.
In an order on Sep 7, the high court also rejected the plea for vacating the earlier order and to permit the centre to make all other arrangements. The court said the centre could proceed with all arrangements, but it should not spend any amount for the Haj Committee for personal expenses, including airfare.
Assailing the judgment, the central government then submitted that the process for Haj had commenced in May and arrangements on a massive scale had already been put in place for the pilgrimage. Invitation to tenders for wet lease of aircraft had already been issued in June. Commitment from Saudi Arabian airlines had been obtained for transporting 60,000 pilgrims.
It said it had signed an agreement with the authorities concerned in Saudi Arabia for sending 147,000 pilgrims for Haj 2006-II; of these 100,000 would be sent through the Haj Committee of India.
The implementation of the high court judgment would derail the Haj arrangements and the quota for sending 147,000 pilgrims would be in jeopardy. This would have serious international ramifications in securing quota for Indians at future Haj programmes, it said.
The SLP contended that the high court had proceeded on a wholly erroneous assumption that there was no power vested in the union of India to make any financial arrangements.
The high court had failed to appreciate that financial assistance was also being provided to pilgrims for the Kailash Manasarovar yatra. Further granting financial assistance was a matter of policy decision, which could not be interfered with, the SLP said, seeking quashing of the judgment and interim stay of its operation.