Modi government has decided to scrap the Haj subsidy in compliance 2012 interim order of a Muslim judge, Justice Aftab Alam. The court directive has been towards phasing out the subsidy in a period of 10 years. The government’s performance have superlative in this case as they phased it out in a span of less than six years.
Delving into the intricacies behind the court order:
- Justices Gyan Sudha Mishra and Markandey Katju of Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Haj subsidy in 2011
- It was noted by the bench of Justices, Ranjana Prakash and Alam in 2012
Justice Alam observed that “we also take note of the fact that the grant of the subsidy has been found to be constitutionally valid by this court. We are not oblivious of the fact that in many other purely religious events there are direct and indirect deployment of state funds and state resources. Nevertheless, we are of the view that Haj subsidy is something that is best done away with.”
Despite the difference of opinion between Justice Katju and Justice Alam, none tried to overturn each other’s view towards the legality of Haj subsidy. Neither Justice Alam stressed on phasing out the Haj subsidy as reversal to Justice Katju’s view, which favored upholding the Haj subside.
In any case, it can be argued that if a government policy is constitutional, non-discriminatory and non-arbitrary, court should stay away from it. The people have given mandate to the incumbent to frame policies and court has no business to interfere on it. Justice Alam’s view was based on the premise that was taken from Quran, which says Muslims should be undertaking the pilgrimage if they can afford it in terms of conveyance, provision and residence.
So, from these arguments and counterarguments it can be ascertained that scrapping Haj pilgrimage has some weight and justification. What is not justified is the discriminatory nature of it. The list of subsidy government undertakes for other religions are described below.
- Travancore Devaswom Fund is donated with Rs. 46.5 lakh annually under Article 290A, the state of Kerala
- Devaswom fund donated with Rs. 13.5 lakh by Tamil Nadu government for the “maintenance of Hindu temples”
- 10 crore has been spent by Indian government to develop the infrastructure of Amaranath yatra route
- In the 2017-18 budget, the BJP government in Rajasthan allocated Rs 38.91 crorefor the Devasthan Department, of which Rs 16 crore is for the pilgrimage of senior citizens
Surprisingly, the so-called secular parties are silent about it, probably because, they too are realizing that winning election is much more difficult without the votes of 79 percent Hindus. Congress has learnt the hard way as it they who introduced the Haj subsidy and now that the subsidy being scrapped by BJP does not raise their eyebrows.