- Bengal government can give funds to puja organizers, says Supreme Court
- But Supreme Court wants detailed affidavit from state government
- Petitioner opposed public money being used for Durga pujas
A Rs 10,000 grant to all Durga puja committees in West Bengal will flow unhindered as the Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition challenging the dole, refused to block it today. The court, however, asked the Mamata Banerjee government to explain the matter in a detailed affidavit within six weeks.
The government has said the funds - to be given to 3000 Durga puja committees in Kolkata and 25,000 across the districts - were meant for a road safety programme. The petition, however, contended that the government was using public money for religious purposes, flouting the principles of secularism. The petitioner also alleged that the money was being "distributed through the police" against all norms.
Appearing for West Bengal government, senior Supreme Court advocate Kapil Sibal today said all funds are being given only through cheques and it will be accounted for.
The matter reached the top court after the Calcutta High Court, on October 10, refused to interfere with the state government's decision. The court said the legislature is the best forum to bring up the issue and agreed to intervene later if needed.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh has accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of trying to divide the people along religious lines by giving out doles during festivals. The Chief Minister, he said, was facing the "anger of the Hindus" and hence trying to pacify them.
The reference was to the government's decision over the last two years - when Vijaya Dashami coincided with Muharram - to restrict the timings of Durga idol immersion so it would not clash with tazia processions.
With the Vijaya Dashami immersions being the grand finale of the four-day festivities, the government's decision had irked many. Social media overflowed with angry messages and the Chief Minister was accused of minority appeasement.