The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the petition challenging the Calcutta High Court judgment which refused to interfere with the West Bengal Government's decision to provide funding for Durga Puja celebrations.
Mentioning the matter before the bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, the counsel for the petitioners submitted that there is no guideline for spending of Rs. 28 crores earmarked by the government for Puja celebrations. The TMC government has decided to gift Rs 10,000 each to 28,000 Durga Puja committees in the state. The CJI accepted the oral plea to list the matter tomorrow for consideration.
This decision was challenged in the Calcutta High Court by two residents of the State contending that public funding of a religious festival was against the principles of secularism. "Use of tax-payers' money for repair/restructuring/construction of any 'religious place' offends the spirit and object of Article 27 of the Constitution of India. The Constitution of India prohibits the state from compelling any person to pay any tax, proceeds of which is to be spent for the promotion of any particular religion or religious denomination. Therefore, the decision of the state relating to grant for organizing Durga Puja is unconstitutional and is liable to be set aside", argued the petitioners before the High Court.
The High Court division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta and Justice Sampa Sarkar said that the Legislature is the appropriate forum to decide on expenditure by the state government. Stating that the court does not want to interfere in the government's decision to disburse funds to Durga Puja committees at this stage, the bench, however, said that the court can interfere at a later stage when the scope arises.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta had submitted before the division bench that the funds are to be used for assisting police under its traffic safety campaign and not for any religious purpose.
The High Court decision has been now challenged in SC stating that "the HC failed to appreciate that there is no public purpose involved in organizing Durga Puja rather it is religious programme".