Puja Pandal at Ultodanga Bidhan Sangha. (Express photo by Partha Paul)
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the West Bengal government’s decision to grant Rs 10,000 to each puja committee in the state, but directed that it should only be distributed through the state police. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta issued notice to the state government indicating that it will examine the issue. Initially, the bench sought to know how the state proposed to distribute the amount.
Appearing for the state government, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the money will be distributed through the state police. He added the amount was for the purpose of ensuring safety.
The bench then pointed out that the order of the high court, which refused to intervene in the decision, had stated some amount had already been released. Sibal said it was only being given to registered societies and through police. He submitted that the court could record his statement and that he will file an affidavit. The senior counsel pointed out that pandals were also required to give a utilisation certificate to the government.
The petitioner countered the submission that the money was being given to ensure safety and said there was no such purpose initially. On October 10, the HC had rejected the petition, saying the legislature is the appropriate forum to decide on expenditure by the state and it did not want to interfere. It was then mentioned before a bench headed by the CJI who agreed to hear it urgently Friday and marked it to the bench of Justices Lokur and Gupta.