NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has told the Centre to scrap ‘goodwill delegations’ to Haj pilgrimage.
A Bench comprising Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai told Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati that politicians and bureaucrats travelling on Haj pilgrimage at government expense can no longer be allowed.
“It is high time these goodwill delegations are scrapped to ensure that only genuine pilgrims are benefited,” the Bench felt.
“These goodwill delegations need to be scrapped altogether. They are no longer relevant. Even a team of nine to 10 people is not required,” the Bench said.
Vahanvati and Centre’s counsel Harris Beran told the Bench that the goodwill delegations were sent to Haj every year to promote the nation’s image as was being done by the neighbouring countries.
To this, the Bench pointed out that this practice was commenced by India in 1967 after the Indo-Pak war, as the neighbouring state used the pilgrimage to launch anti-India tirade.
“This necessity is no longer there. These will have to be gradually reduced to four to five and then scrapped totally,” the Bench said.
Attorney General Vahanvati told the Bench that to ensure that more pilgrims avail the Haj facility, the official goodwill delegations, which earlier had 30 people, had been, over the years, reduced to almost nine to 10 members.
The Bench was hearing an appeal filed by the Union government challenging a Bombay High Court verdict wherein the court had directed the Ministry of External Affairs to allow private operators to operate the services for 800 of the total 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota, subsidised by the government.