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The Calcutta High Court Friday refused to stay the payment of honorarium by the West Bengal government to Imams in the state till a suit is pending in court.

The high court was hearing a public interest litigation, filed by the BJP, which challenges the ex-gratia payment on the ground that a Supreme Court directive states that salary to an Imam – the male prayer leader in a mosque – can be paid only from the state Wakf board fund.

“Although the court refused to stay the payment, it asked the state government to give an affidavit to take the responsibility of recovering the amount so paid if the honorarium is held unconstitutional by the court,” Bharatiya Janata Party counsel Kaushik Chandra said.

The division bench of Chief Justice J.N. Patel and Justice Sambuddha Chakrabarty also ordered the disbursing authority to inform the Imams that the honorarium will be paid subject to the decision of the court.

“If the verdict goes against them, they shall be liable to refund the money paid to them,” added Chandra.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had April 3 announced her government’s plan to pay a monthly honorarium of Rs.2,500 to around 30,000 Imams in the state. The PIL will be next heard May 6.

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