- High Court refuses to interfere with decision on Durga puja grants
- Over 28,000 Durga puja committees will receive Rs. 10,000 grant
- The exercise is expected to cost the government Rs 28 crore
Disposing off the petition challenging West Bengal government's decision to give funds to Durga puja organizers, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday, refused to interfere into the matter for now. The court said that the Legislature is the appropriate forum to decide on expenditure by the state government.
At a later stage, if the scope arises, the court can interfere, said a bench comprising acting Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta and Justice Sampa Sarkar. The issue can be taken up after the next budget, said the court.
The Mamata Banerjee government has given Rs 10,000 to each of the 3000 pujas in state capital Kolkata and 25,000 in the districts.
Last week, after the high court put on hold distribution of money to the puja committees, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said, "wonder how funds already distributed can be taken back."
Replying to a question raised by the court earlier, on using public money for religious purposes, the government's lawyer, Kishore Dutta told the court that the funds are to be used for assisting the police under its traffic safety campaign and not for religious purposes.
Yesterday the state government argued in court that the decision to give Rs 10,000 each to 28,000 Durga puja committees was an executive order. "We are answerable only to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Legislature," said senior lawyer Shakti Nath Mukherjee, representing the state government.
Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh had accused Ms Banerjee of appeasement politics. "Giving 'chanda' (contribution) for Durga puja is appeasement politics. Earlier it was Imam stipend, now Durga puja dole...The state government is constantly complaining they don't have funds for development, how can they just allot Rs 28 crore for pujas," said Mr Ghosh.
On Monday, calling upon people to maintain religious harmony, Ms Banerjee said, the state celebrates festivals of all communities with equal enthusiasm. "The spirit of togetherness and amity" was the strength of people in Bengal, said the Chief Minister.