The Calcutta High Court ordered the West Bengal government to put a hold on the distribution of funds on account of Durga Puja till Tuesday and asked to provide a guideline if available because a huge amount was involved.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta and Justice Shampa Sarkar passed an interim stay order after advocate Sourabh Dutta filed a PIL challenging the programme.
Advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya who appeared favouring petition stated that such funding of money among puja committees was not correct and called it ‘unconstitutional’ as it was not admissible on religious ground.
State Advocate General Kishore Dutta opposed Mr Bikash and said that the distribution was announced to promote state government’s ‘Safe Drive Save Life’ campaign and claimed the PIL was not clear.
Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, the counsel for the petitioners and former Kolkata mayor informed that the government contended that the fund release was to promote the state’s campaign for safe driving that carries the slogan ‘Safe drive, save the life’ but the court was not satisfied and asked for an affidavit from the state government
The PIL filed was on the ground of some newspaper reports.
Last Month, Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee made an announcement to facilitate Rs 10,000 to each of the 28,000 puja committees across the state in which 3,000 in the city and 25,000 in the districts. The total fund to be released was Rs 28 crore.
After the court order, the chief minister said, “We have full respect for the court. But we have already given the money (to Puja committees). How will we take the money back?”
The BJP’s state unit appreciated the court’s verdict on the release of fund and said that state was trying to cultivate “dole politics” to win Hindu votes for Lok Sabha polls.
Earlier, the state government had even tried to woo the Muslim community by announcing allowances for Imams and now this announcement was made to woo Hindu voters.
“We all must remember that India is a secular country and we can’t preach such kind of politics,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.