Indian Muslims on Haj promote global goodwill: Government

July 28th, 2008 - 11:00 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) The government has told the Supreme Court that Indian Muslims performing Haj promote international goodwill and understanding. The government stated this in an affidavit to the bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice L.S. Panta, which Monday admitted for regular and elaborate hearing a lawsuit by former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Praful Goradia opposing the grant of subsidy to Haj pilgrims.

The lawsuit also questioned the constitutional validity of the law providing for budgetary allocation for annual financial assistance to Muslims performing the Haj.

The government defended the financial assistance to such pilgrims saying: “The Haj pilgrimage has certain foreign relations and foreign policy aspects. It is important to note that the Haj is taking place in a foreign country, Saudi Arabia, which is an Islamic country.”

“India has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, next only to Indonesia, and friendship and better relations within the comity of nations, including Arab countries, is an aspect of international relations and foreign policy,” the government said.

“Taking into account various factors, which go into promoting better relations, the government has thought it fit that Muslim brothers from weaker sections too get the advantage of performing the Haj,” said the government.

“Moreover, Indian Muslims performing the Haj promote international goodwill and understanding,” it said in its affidavit.

Opposing Goradia’s plea to scarp the Haj subsidy, the government said: “It is important to note that the amount of subsidy is allocated in the Union Budget. The court ought not interfere with budgetary allocation made by Parliament after due consideration of all relevant issues.”

In its affidavit, the government submitted to the court that its act of granting subsidy to Muslim pilgrims as also to pilgrims of other religions is not a sectarian but a secular activity.

“The government is only facilitating the Indian citizens to go on pilgrimage. It is submitted that the facilitating activities undertaken by the government can never be termed as the process to acquire a particular religious character by the government and basic features of secularism is not at all impeded by the such activities,” said the government, refuting Goradia’s allegation that providing subsidy to Haj pilgrims was a non-secular function of the government.

In his petition, Goradia alleged that the estimated Rs.2.8 billion annually spent by the government for funding the Haj pilgrimage was not only unconstitutional but a drain on the tax payers’ money.

He contended that the provision for special subsidy to Muslims, without any similar assistance to others like Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs, was violative of the constitution as the State cannot discriminate between the citizens on the grounds of religion, caste or creed.

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