The Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered the West Bengal government to put on hold till Tuesday the distribution of Durga Puja funds, reported PTI. Last month, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced that government would disburse Rs 10,000 to each of the 28,000 puja committees across the state. This would cost the government Rs 28 crore.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta and Justice Shampa Sarkar passed the interim order on a petition by advocate Sourabh Dutta, who challenged the distribution of funds. The bench asked the government if the distribution of such a large amount of money involved any guidelines.
“What is the purpose of using people’s money? Can you use it at all?” NDTV quoted the bench as saying. “Is there a guideline for distributing the money? Do you give the same amount of money for every major festival of all religions?”
Advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, on behalf of Sourabh Dutta, described as unconstitutional such a distribution and said it was not admissible on religious ground.
West Bengal Advocate General Kishore Dutta opposed the plea on the ground that the funds were to be used for the state government’s “Safe Drive Save Life” campaign. He sought time from the court to produce documents related to the disbursal of the funds.
State Bharatiya Janata Party President Dilip Ghosh accused Banerjee of practicing appeasement politics. “Earlier it was Imam stipend, now Durga Puja dole,” he said. “The state government is constantly complaining they don’t have funds for development, how can they just allot Rs 28 crore for pujas?”
The High Court will next hear the matter on Tuesday.