The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday asked the Union government to file an affidavit in the Haj subsidy case as it fixed February 19 as the next date of hearing in the matter.

“The Supreme Court fixed the matter for further hearing on February 19… The court asked the Central government to file an affidavit in the case,” said officials.

The Narendra Modi government on January 16 announced the withdrawal of Haj subsidy from this year which amounted to around Rs.200 crore last year, and said the money would be used for educational uplift of the Muslim community, especially girls.

The Centre’s decision followed a 2012 Supreme Court order asking that subsidies for the Haj be phased out by 2022 and the money saved (around Rs.450 crore annually) diverted to more welfare-oriented activities.

The decision evoked a mixed response from Muslim leaders and clerics. While most of them have welcomed the move as “long awaited”, some argued that the Centre should not take decisions that seem to single out one community.