Supreme Court lowers VIP Haj quota

The Supreme Court reduced the VIP quota for Haj pilgrimage on Monday after questioning the  rationale behind the recommendation-based allocation of the quota system. A bench comprising Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai limited the number of seats to be allocated under the discretionary quota by the president to 100, the vice president to 75, the prime minister to 75 and the external affairs minister to 50. The bench said that 200 seats would be reserved for the Haj Committee of India.

The government had 2,550 VIP quota seats, and it also counted 2,500 seats earmarked for Haj by the Bohra Muslims, which were not used, thus taking the discretionary quota to 5,050. Now, after the apex court order, there are just 500 discretionary seats – 300 under the VIP quota – available in all.

All these seats would now move to the general Haj category. The court also said that no high court will entertain any writ petition for registration of pilgrims for the Haj 2012. The court said that 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.

India, after signing a bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia, has got a quota of 1.7 lakh Haj pilgrims for 2012 against 3.02 lakh applications that it has received. Of this quota, 1.25 lakh pilgrims will be able to go on the Haj through the arrangements made by the Haj Committee of India and the rest through private tour operators.

The apex court had earlier directed the government to phase out Haj subsidy within a period of 10 years, arguing that the sum could be more profitably used for social and educational development of the Muslim community.
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