The Supreme Court on Friday refused to put a stay on the West Bengal government’s decision to grant Rs 28 crore to 28,000 Durga Puja committees but issued a notice on a plea challenging the decision.
Hearing a petition filed by advocate Sourav Dutta, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta refused to put a stay on the order of the Calcutta High Court which on Wednesday, 10 October, said that it will not interfere with the manner in which the Executive utilised government funds.
The state government had told the High Court that the Rs 10,000 each to the 28,000 Durga Puja committees will be utilised for Traffic Security Campaign and not religious puprposes.
The plea challenging the High Court order was brought before the apex court on Thursday.
According to reports, the petitioner argued that the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision was against the secular nature of the Constitution as Durga Puja is a purely religious festival and serves no public purpose.
Opposing the prayer, state Advocate General Kishore Dutta had submitted that the fund was for the purpose of the state government’s ‘Safe Drive Save Life’ campaign and claimed that the PIL is as such not maintainable.
On 10 September, Mamata Banerjee had declared that Rs 10,000 would be given to each of the 28,000 puja committees across the state – 3,000 in the city and 25,000 in the districts.
On 5 October the Calcutta High Court had ordered a stay on the decision asking the government the grounds on which “the state is using the exchequer money for Durga Puja celebration” and whether there was a proper guideline to issue that money.
The CM’s decision to give the grant to Puja committees had not gone down well with members of the Muslim community.
On 3 October, Muslim groups led by All Bengal Minority Youth Federation (ABMYF) took out a massive rally in central Kolkata protesting against the decision and raising slogans against Banerjee for “failing” to deliver on her promises.
But on 6 October Mamata Banerjee began this year’s Durga Puja inauguration spree with Sreebhumi Sporting Club.
“Religion is personal but festivals are for all. Today, people from all over the world come to Bengal to witness this festival,” Banerjee said at the event.