Dec 16, 2008

India - Woman sues Haj panel for ‘arbitrary’ rule

Anshika Misra

Having fulfiled her religious obligation to perform Haj last December, Kulsum Baugwala, 61, had wanted to visit the holy city of Mecca once more. However, she was not even able to submit her application form to the Haj Committee, which makes arrangements for the pilgrimage, owing to a new guideline that bars anyone who has performed Haj in the past five years from applying.

Baugwala, a Mumbai Central resident, has dragged the Haj Committee to Bombay High Court, alleging that the new guideline is arbitrary and discriminatory. She said that there was no such bar on persons going for Haj through the committee’s VIP quota, or those opting for private tour operators.

The new guideline also states that if a person, who has performed Haj in the past five years, chooses to apply, he/she could lose their deposit and even face prosecution.
Haj is one of the five tenets of Islam. Performing Haj is obligatory to every sane, financially able and adult Muslim. The Saudi Arabian government allots quotas for Hajis to each country. India can send 1.10 lakh pilgrims.

The Haj Committee wrote to Baugwala in June, stating that since Haj was a farz — every Muslim should do it at least once in a lifetime — those reapplying were “usurping the legitimate right of genuine Haj pilgrims”. It added that owing to the number of applications, the ministry of external affairs had recommended that the time restriction be increased to seven years.

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