HC asks Bengal govt to file affidavit on petition challenging allowance for Hindu priests

By: |
October 10, 2020 3:46 PM

The chief minister on September 24 announced a grant of Rs 50,000 to each of the around 37,000 Durga Puja committees in the state. It was formally notified four days later.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had on September 14 announced monthly financial assistance of Rs 1,000 for poor Hindu priests.

The Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the West Bengal government to file an affidavit-in- opposition after a writ petition challenged a declaration by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that poor Hindu priests of the state would get monthly financial assistance of Rs 1,000.

Appearing for petitioner Sourav Dutta, a CITU leader, senior counsel Bikash Bhattacharya submitted that the high court has already declared a grant announced by the state government to Imams as unconstitutional and as such a similar declaration cannot be made.

The state government had announced a monthly allowance for Imams and muezzins – those who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque – in 2012. The Calcutta High Court in 2013 dubbed the decision as “unconstitutional and against public interest”.

The Trinamool Congress government then created a separate fund under the Wakf Board for the upkeep of the properties that it held.

The fund also took care of the emoluments of the Imams and muezzins. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had on September 14 announced monthly financial assistance of Rs 1,000 for poor Hindu priests.

A division bench comprising justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee directed the state government to file the affidavit-in-opposition within a week after the Durga Puja vacation and reply thereto, if any, may be filed within a week thereafter.

The court directed that the matter will appear for hearing a week after the completion of affidavits. It said that in the event any payments have been made to the priests, the same will abide by the result of the petition.

Dutta also challenged the decision of the state government to give a grant of Rs 50,000 to each Durga Puja Committee in the state.

His lawyer Bikash Bhattacharya said that the same division bench is likely to take up the matter for hearing on October 14. The petitioner claimed that such a grant is against the concept of secularism in India and that it hurts the fundamental rights of citizens granted by the Constitution.

The chief minister on September 24 announced a grant of Rs 50,000 to each of the around 37,000 Durga Puja committees in the state. It was formally notified four days later.

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