The Centre told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that it has barred disabled people from going for the Haj pilgrimage because there have been “many instances of such individuals taking up begging, which is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia”. The petitioner had alleged that the order violated the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

The Centre said another reason for banning disabled people from performing the pilgrimage was that the journey was physically demanding, PTI reported. In an affidavit, the Ministry of Minority Affairs said the consul general of India in Jeddah had advised “screening” for disability in 2012. It added that the policy in place for the last 30 years had simply been continued.

The government filed the affidavit in response to a Public Interest Litigation against the ban on disabled people undertaking the Haj pilgrimage under the Centre’s new Haj Policy 2018-2022. But the government added that it was “sensitive” to Supreme Court advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal’s plea, and had directed the Haj Committee of India to look into the matter and suggest modifications to the new policy.

The petitioner had also pointed out the use of language like “crippled” and “lunatic” in the new policy to describe those barred from the pilgrimage, The Indian Express reported. The Centre, however, defended the language. “It is important to understand the clientele which these guidelines target, a large number of whom are not educated and understand only Urdu or Hindi,” its submission read. “Given this background, these wordings might have been used for understanding of the common applicant.”