Puja grant to clubs: Calcutta HC refuses to interfere | Kolkata News – Times of India

KOLKATA: The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday refused to interfere in the state government’s decision to give Rs 60,000 each to 40,028 Durja Puja clubs in Bengal – 3,000 among them are in Kolkata – and a 60% waiver on their electricity bills.
Disposing of the five PILs, the HC set a six-point guideline asking for utilisation certificates for the funds received and directing the state DGP to ensure that the funds are spent only for puja purposes. The clubs that receive the grants will also have to furnish their accounts to the state by November 15.
The PILs had been filed after CM Mamata Banerjee made the waiver announcement on August 22. On September 6, the state issued an order regarding the puja grant. The state also stated in the order that it was disbursing Rs 240,16,80,000 for this. The PILs questioned the dole given when the state is passing through a financial stress. The PILs also argued that spending on Durga Puja would not serve any public purpose since pujas are private affairs. They also said that during Covid the doles could have been justified but not now, also given the fact that the clubs are not submitting proper utilisation certificates.
A bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj stated that the HC had back in 2018 dealt in detail whether a state can make such an expenditure. When the HC chose not to interfere, the HC order was also challenged in the Supreme court. The SC refused to stay the HC order. The HC also said in 2020 a similar challenge was made, which was disposed of with directions on how the amount received should be spent and accounted for. The HC said, “The above order clearly indicates that the decision of the state government to extend grant to the clubs/puja committees in the state during Durga Puja has not been set aside in the previous years but only the utilization of the grant has been regulated by this court.”
The HC said the September order on the release of grants cited that the Intergovernmental Committee established by the Unesco has included Durga Puja in Kolkata in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Durga Puja is also recognised by the Centre in its National List for Intangible Cultural Heritage. The state says that promoting this festival will also encourage national and international tourism and help in showcasing the rich cultural heritage. The HC said, “We are not inclined to interfere in the decision of the state to extend the grant to puja committees. However, we are of the opinion that the grant should be strictly utilized for the purpose.”

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