SC refuses to stay order to pay WB Puja committees

SC refuses to stay order to pay WB Puja committees

Artists give finishing touches to idols of deities at a Durga Puja pandal, in Kolkata, on Thursday. PTI

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the West Bengal government's order to grant Rs 28 crore to Durga Puja organisers over there.

A state resident contended that doling out tax payers money for religious purpose would affect the secular fabric of the country and may ignite communal passion.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta refused to stay the order but agreed to examine its legal validity.

The court issued notice to the state government, seeking its response on the petition.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the West Bengal government, contended the money has not been paid directly to the Puja committee but it has been disbursed through police.

Petitioner Sourav Dutta challenged the October 10 order of the Calcutta High Court, which had declined to interfere with the grant of Rs 28 crore by the Mamata Banerjee government to 28,000 Puja committees across the state.

In his plea, he contended that the move would offend the spirit and object of Article 27 (freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion) of the Constitution.

The High Court, while dismissing the writ petition, failed to appreciate that there is no public purpose involved in organising Durga Puja rather it was a religious programme, he said.

The decision would also violate the provision of Article 282 of the Constitution and thus, is liable to be set aside, he said.