Calcutta HC Refuses To Set Aside State Government's Decision To Give ₹60,000 Each To 40,092 Durga Puja Committees
The Calcutta High Court has refused to set aside the declaration made by the Government of West Bengal providing grant of about Rs. 60,000/- each to about 40,092 Puja Committees/Clubs in the State during Durga Puja.
"…we are not inclined to interfere in the decision of the State to extend the grant to Puja Committees.", the Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj held.
However, the Court directed that such grant will be released only to those Clubs/Puja Committees who in the previous year had utilized the same for the purpose it was granted and had duly submitted the utilization certificate within time.
The grievance of petitioners was in respect of the declaration made by the Government of West Bengal for providing a grant of about Rs. 60,000/- each to about 40,092 Puja Committees/Clubs in the State of West Bengal during the Durga Puja, 2022 as also against providing concession, rebate or waiver to the extent of 60% on electricity consumption bill during the said period of Durga Puja to such Puja Committees/Clubs in the State.
The grievance of the petitioner was that the public money is sought to be distributed in this manner ignoring the larger public interest when the State is going through financial crunch.
The Counsel for the petitioners/applicant had submitted that the distribution of amount has nothing to do with public purpose and that Durga Puja is a private affair.
A further plea was raised that instead of making payment to Amphan victim or implementing Swasthya Sathi Scheme which have higher priority, the money is being wrongly distributed for religious purpose.
Senior Advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, Advocate Shamik Bagchi appeared for the petitioners whereas Advocate General S.N. Mookherjee appeared for the State.
The Court observed that the decision of the State Government to extend grant to the Clubs/Puja Committees has not been set aside in the earlier years but only the utilization of the grant has been regulated by the Court.
The Court also noted the stand of the State that the disbursement of the fund is for public purpose and not to propagate or encourage a particular religion.
Therefore, the Court refused to interfere with the decision of the State to extend the grant to Puja Committees, however in order to ensure that the grant is utilized for public purpose, the Court gave certain directions.
"…the grant is to be distributed through the West Bengal Police and Kolkata Police, therefore, it will be responsibility of the police to ensure that the grant is utilized for the public purpose mentioned in the order dated 6th of September, 2022.", the Court held.
The Court further directed that "The Puja Committees will submit the utilization certificate along with the supporting vouchers to the Sub-Divisional Officers in the district and to the Designated Officers within the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Police not later than 15th of November, 2022."
Cause Title- Dr. Santanu De v. The State of West Bengal and Others with Ors.