Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mamata’s allowance to Imams unconstitutional: Court

Calcutta High Court on Monday rejected an allowance announced by West Bengal government for Imams and Muezzins, ruling it to be unconstitutional and against the public interest.

A division bench of Justice P.K. Chattopadhyay and Justice M.P. Shrivastava passed the above order on a writ petition challenging the announcement.

The court said the allowance violated Articles 14 and 15/1 of the Constitution, which provide that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had in April 2012 announced an allowance of Rs. 2,500 for each Imam, later also extending one to muezzins, who say the Azaan, of Rs. 1,500 each.

That decision was challenged in high court by BJP state general secretary Asim Sarkar who contended that India was a secular country and the allowance went against constitutional provisions ensuring equality of religion.

It was also claimed that the allowance was not in the public interest and would cost the exchequer Rs. 126 crore annually, Sarkar’s counsel, Kaushik Chanda, said.

Opposing the petition, the counsels for the state government claimed it could lawfully extend the allowance and added that the Assembly had okayed the expenditure.

Refusing to accept the contention, the court today ruled in favour of the petitioner and directed that the allowance be stopped immediately as it was in violation of the provisions of the Constitution.

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