Kolkata High Court on Thursday questioned the West Bengal government’s decision to give Rs 50,000 to various clubs in the state for organising Durga Pujo.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee last month had announced a grant of Rs 50,000 to each Durga Pujo committee in the state.

Announcing a slew of doles for around 37,000 Durga Pujo committees in the state, Banerjee said that the fire brigade, Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), other civic bodies.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a tough time for all of us. We have decided to provide Rs 50,000 grant to each Durga Puja committee of the state. We have also decided that CESC and the state electricity board will give 50 percent waiver for the puja committees,” she had said addressing the Durga Puja Coordination meeting in Kolkata’s Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Challenging the government’s decision, CITU leader from Durgapur Sourav Dutta had filed a petition in the Kolkata High Court. Hearing the case on Thursday was a division bench led by Justice Sanjiv Banerjee.

The bench noted, as quoted by ABP Ananda, “We are proud of Durga Pujo. But can the government pay anyone it likes? Can there be such discrimination in a democratic system?” The court questioned why the government was paying during Durga Pujo and asked if it did the same during Eid.

The government in its defence said that it was paying so that clubs could arrange masks and sanitisers for people visiting their pandal. The apex court countered by saying that state could have itself arranged that for the general populace.

Justice Banerjee’s bench further questioned the West Bengal government, “Due to the risk of contamination of coronavirus, all the education institutions are closed. Why did you allow Durga Pujo then?”

The court even wanted to know what crowd controlling measures will the state follow during the days of the Pujo and asked them provide a blue-print of it.

The state in its response said that the concerned police departments were working on their strategies to control the crowd, keeping in mind the severity of the ongoing pandemic.

Justice Banerjee-led bench asked, “If the police is doing everything, what is the logic to pay the clubs?”

With inputs from PTI