The Delhi High Court has intervened in the suspension of registration certificates and quotas of several Haj Group Organisers (HGOs) by the Indian government.
The court emphasized that the Haj pilgrimage holds great religious significance for Muslims and is a fundamental right for them to practice their faith.
The HGOs act as tour operators for pilgrims, and their registration and quotas were suspended last month due to their alleged ineligibility and misrepresentation of facts during registration.
A vacation bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh addressed the petitions filed by over 13 HGOs and expressed concern for the pilgrims who had already paid in advance to these operators for their pilgrimage to Mecca and other holy sites in Saudi Arabia. The court urged the government to ensure that the pilgrims do not suffer any obstruction and can undertake their journey smoothly.
Justice Singh acknowledged that the Haj pilgrimage and its associated ceremonies are religious practices protected by the Indian Constitution. The court asserted its role as the protector of this right and ordered the stay of the suspension of registration certificates and quotas mentioned in the consolidated list of allocation of Haj Quota for HAJ-2023 issued by the government on May 25, 2023.
However, the court clarified that the authorities could proceed with the investigation into the alleged defaults of the HGOs based on the show-cause notices issued to them. The government argued that it had the right to suspend or cancel the registration of HGOs in cases of non-compliance with the terms and conditions, and it was unwilling to risk the pilgrims’ welfare by relying on non-compliant HGOs.
The court acknowledged that restrictions and conditions could be imposed on the issuance of registration certificates and quota allocation to the petitioners. Still, it stressed that such actions should not be held against the pilgrims who registered in good faith with these entities. The court believed that penalizing the pilgrims would contradict the purpose of the current Haj Policy and would be in violation of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.
It is important to note that Saudi Arabia had allocated a total of 1,75,025 pilgrims for India in 2023, with 1,40,000 for the Haj Committee of India and 35,025 for HGOs, as per the bilateral agreement between the two countries. (With inputs from PTI)