Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the decision of Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government to grant Rs 28 crore to 28,000 Durga puja committees in the state.
The Supreme Court, however, issued a notice to the West Bengal government while hearing a plea filed by advocate Sourav Dutta challenging the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision in this regard.
On September 10, Mamata Banerjee had declared that Rs 10,000 would be given to each of the 28,000 puja committees across the state –3,000 in the city and 25,000 in the districts, which would cost the government Rs 28 crore.
On Thursday, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was apprised that on Wednesday the Calcutta High Court had refused to interfere with the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to grant Rs 10,000 each to 28,000 puja committees in the state.
The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, was told by lawyer P V Dinesh that the decision of the state government was against the established principle of law and an urgent hearing was needed on the plea.
The petition was filed by advocate Sourav Dutta said that with the decision to grant Rs 28 crore to puja organisers, the state government was indulging in practices which were against the principles of secularism, which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
“The attitude of the state government is alarming since its actions are having tendency to encourage communal passion in the community,” the plea said.
It also said that the high court, while dismissing the writ petition, failed to appreciate that there was “no public purpose” involved in organising Durga Puja, rather it is a “religious programme”.
“The statement of the Chief Minister itself shows that there is no public purpose particularly when she has clarified the said grant is being extended to the Puja Organisers on account of gift from state. Since no public purpose would be served by granting money and/or handing out concessions to Durga Puja organisers, the said decision of the state violates the provision of Article 282 of the Constitution and thus, the said decision of granting money to the puja committees is liable to be set aside,” the plea said.
The Article 282 of the Constitution deals with the expenditure defrayable by the Union or a State out of its revenues.
The plea said there was no provision of law by which State exchequer could be utilised for giving gift to puja organiser.
It also said the high court failed to appreciate that the State fund which consist payment of various taxes by citizens cannot be utilized for any religious purpose.
“Use of tax-payers money for repair/restructuring/ construction of any religious place offends the sprit and object of Article 27 of the Constitution of India. The Constitution of India prohibits the state from compelling any person to pay any tax, proceeds of which is to be spent for the promotion of any particular religion or religious denomination.
“Therefore, the decision of the state relating to grant for organizing Durga Puja is unconstitutional and is liable to be set aside,” the plea said.
Article 27 says, no person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religions denomination.
The high court had on Wednesday refused to interfere in the state government’s decision to give Rs 10,000 each to 28,000 Durga puja committees in the state, and said the legislature is the appropriate forum to decide on such expenditure.
An interim stay granted by the court on disbursal of funds stood vacated as the court disposed of the plea.
The petitioner, in his plea, had challenged the government’s decision to disburse funds to the tune of Rs 28 crore, claiming it was a dole to puja committees and had no public purpose.
The plea also claimed that providing funds to puja committees is a violation of the secular structure of the Constitution.
On September 10, Mamata Banerjee had declared that Rs 10,000 would be given to each of the 28,000 puja committees across the state –3,000 in the city and 25,000 in the districts, costing the government an amount of Rs 28 crore.
(With PTI inputs)