The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that Haj subsidy for Muslims or taxpayers' money spent on extending similar facilities to followers of other religions did not violate the principle of secularism or any provisions of the Constitution.
Dismissing a petition filed in 2007 by Prafull Goradia, challenging the constitutional validity of Haj subsidy, a bench headed by justice Markandeya Katju said if a small portion of public money was used for subsidising pilgrimage it would not be unconstitutional.
Goradia, former BJP MP and a right-wing author, had challenged the constitutional validity of the Haj Committee Act, 2002. He said the Act violated Article 27 of the Constitution, which says, "No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination."
Goradia had argued that subsidy for Haj also violated the right to equality (Article 14) and the right to non-discrimination (Article 15). He contended that he was a Hindu but part of direct and indirect taxes proceeds went for Haj pilgrimage, undertaked only by Muslims.
But the court rejected his arguments, saying, "The interpretation of constitutional principles must not be too literal."
Status quo on Vedanta varsity acquisition
The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Orissa government to maintain a status quo on the acquisition of 6,000 hectares in Puri that was earmarked for an international university by UK-based Vedanta group.
A bench comprising justice DK Jain and justice HL Dattu issued notices to the farmers, on whose petition, the Orissa high court had asked the state administration to return the land to its various owners.
The state government and the Anil Agarwal Foundation appealed against the high court's decision.