Alleged illegitimate earnings of the Central Haj Committee have come under scanner of the Bombay High Court for allegedly exploiting pilgrims under the guise of fees and earning huge interest on refundable deposits.
A division bench of Chief Justice Anil Dave and Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari on Thursday directed the committee to state on an affidavit whether the Rs 16.14 crore it earned in 2006-07 due to fluctuation in foreign exchange rates was returned either to Haj pilgrims or the Central government, which subsidises the pilgrimage.
The court was hearing a petition filed by NGO Khuddam-ul-Haj-o-Umrah Foundation seeking orders to initiate action against the alleged financial irregularities committed by various chairpersons of the committee.
Referring to the reports of Comptroller and Auditor General that in 2006-07, the NGO’s lawyer Firoz A. Ansari said the committee had earned Rs 16.14 crore because of variations in foreign exchange rates.
Ansari contended that the committee had been compelling pilgrims to receive fixed amount of foreign exchange — Saudi Riyals — from it and was making huge profits from foreign exchange transactions.
He claimed that the committee had such huge deposits that it was receiving Rs 10 crore annually in just interest on their bank balances.
Refuting the charges, the Haj committee’s lawyer said the Rs 16.14 crore must have been returned either to the pilgrims or the Central government.
Every year, the committee receives nearly 2.5 lakh applications against its fixed quota of 1.10 lakh pilgrims.
The petition alleged that deposits are received from the applicants much before the scheduled date of draws and the persons whose applications are rejected had to move from pillar to post to gets refunds.
The committee had been making money out of interest on the deposits, it alleged.