SC refuses to stop Mamata Banerjee's Rs. 28cr Durga-Puja grant
While hearing a petition challenging the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government's decision to allot Rs. 28cr for Durga Puja celebrations, the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the government's decision. However, the apex court has issued a notification to the West Bengal government, seeking a detailed response within six weeks on why the funds were allotted. Here are the details.
Backstory: Banerjee's promise and the subsequent challenge to it
On September 10, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had declared that Rs. 10,000 each would be allotted to the 28,000 Durga Puja committees across the state - 3,000 in Kolkata, and 25,000 in other districts. The allocation, which would cost the government Rs. 28cr, was subsequently challenged in the Calcutta High Court, but the court refused to intervene in the government's decision.
Using public money for religious purposes against Indian Constitution
The challenge to Banerjee's decision came from advocate Sourav Dutta, who said that the state using public money for religious purposes was against the principles of secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution. However, on October 10, the Calcutta High Court refused to interfere in the fund allocation, saying that the Legislature was the best arena to address the issue. Dutta subsequently moved the SC.
No public purpose served by handing out Durga Puja money
"Since no public purpose would be served by granting money and/or handing out concessions to Durga Puja organisers, the said decision of the state violates the provision of Article 282 of the Constriction of India," read Dutta's plea.
Banerjee's decision had led to a war of words
Banerjee's decision to allot the Rs. 28cr also led to a political war of words in West Bengal, with the state's BJP unit alleging that the Trinamool Congress government was doling out funds to divide people along religious lines. BJP spokesperson Dilip Ghosh had said that having faced the "anger of the Hindus", the Banerjee government was trying to pacify them and secure votes.