The Supreme Court reduced the seats to 300 from the proposed 5,050 recommended under government’s discretionary and dignitaries quota for Haj 2012 pilgrims and hoped representation for them would be made on “reasonable basis”.
A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai limited the number of seats to be allocated under dignitaries quota by the President to 100, the Vice President to 75, the Prime Minister to 75 and the External Affairs Minister to 50.
Government had said 2550 seats are reserved for recommendations by dignitaries and eminent persons for needy nominees who have not been successful in the ‘Haj Qurrah’ of the year.
The seats under the government’s discretionary quota had gone up to 5,050 as it had transfered and merged 2500 seats reserved for the Bohra Community which got 3000 seats for Haj 2012 directly from the Saudi Authorities. The bench said 200 seats would be reserved for the Haj Committee of India (HCOI) as against the proposed 500.
The bench noted it has no objection in allocation of seats for Haj under government rules but said “this court feels that representation has to be made on reasonable basis”. However, it also clarified that its remark was not meant for the President and the Prime Minister.
The court was told that 11,000 seats have been reserved under government quota to be allocated for Haj 2012.After limiting the seats under dignitaries quota and the HCOI, the bench said remaining seats would go to the Haj committees of various states and union territories.
It also said no high court will entertain any writ petition for registration of pilgrims for Haj 2012.
The bench said if any such petition by any pilgrim or private tour operator is filed in any high court, it will have to be transferred to the apex court.The bench also appointed advocate Huzefa Ahmadi and Ijaz Maqbool as amicus curaie to assist the court in examining the functioning of HCOI and Haj Committees of states.
The bench passed the order after going through an affidavit filed by the government in compliance with the court’s May 8 direction.The court had on May 8 asked the government to furnish details on how its discretionary quota seats for Haj pilgrims are allocated to applicants on recommendation by dignitaries and eminent persons.
It had passed the order saying “we have some initial reservations on allocation of seats on recommendation by dignitaries and eminent persons”.
In its affidavit, the government gave the break up for allocation of seats for Haj Pilgrims for this year stating that out of the 11000, it has reserved 300 seats for Khadim-ul-Hujjar (KuH), i.E Muslim government officers/State Haj Committees/Wakf Board Officials etc.
Further, it said 400 seats reserved for Mehrams (close male relatives of a lady pilgrim selected in the “Qurrah”, i.e by draw of lots.The affidavit said 1500 seats have reserved for Jammu and Kashmir and 250 seats for Lakshadweep under government quota and 500 seats have been retained for smaller states and union territories.It said 2500 seats are reserved for states and UTs with application in excess of the allocated quota.
The apex court on May 8 had also directed the government to phase out Haj subsidy within a period of 10 years, saying the sum can be more profitably used for social and educational development of the Muslim community.
The bench had also asked the government to furnish details on how its quota is allocated to applicants on recommendation by dignitaries and eminent persons.
“We have some initial reservations on allocation of seats on recommendation by dignitaries and eminent persons,” the court had said.
It had said it would “specially” like to examine the functioning of the Haj Committees of the states where the number of applicants exceed the quota allotted for the state.