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SC strikes down Haj subsidy, to be eliminated within 10 years

The apex court while striking down the policy to provide subsidy to Haj pilgrims asked the government to eliminate this policy within next 10 years

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the Indian government's policy of giving subsidies to Haj pilgrims and directed that it be progressively "eliminated" within a period of 10 years, reports PTI.

"We hold that this policy is best done away with," a bench of justices Altamas Kabir and Ranjana Prakash Desai held.

The bench also directed the government to reduce to two the number of its representatives in the Prime Minister's goodwill delegation.

It said it will look into the functioning of Haj Committee of India and its process for selecting people for Haj pilgrimage.

The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Centre challenging a Bombay High Court judgement which had directed the Ministry of External Affairs to allow certain private operators to handle 800 of the 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidised by the government.

The bench while hearing the plea of the Centre had expanded the purview of the plea and decided to look into the legality of the government's policy on granting subsidies to Haj pilgrims.

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Uproar over Chidambaram's alleged role in Maxis-Aircel deal

BJP and AIADMK members, displaying copies of a local English daily which carried a report on the Home Minister's alleged role in the telecom deal, shouted slogans demanding resignation of Chidambaram

New Delhi: Opposition BJP and AIADMK on Tuesday created a storm in the Parliament over the alleged role of Home Minister P Chidambaram in the with Lok Sabha being adjourned till noon and Rajya Sabha twice during Question Hour, reports PTI.

The Lok Sabha also witnessed protests by Congress members over the death of a farmer allegedly in police firing in Bareli town of Madhya Pradesh yesterday.

As soon as Speaker Meira Kumar welcomed a delegation from Saudi Arabia and read out an obituary reference over the demise of former member Teklal Mahto, Congress members started raising slogans against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh over killing of the farmer.

When BJP members raised the issue of alleged role of Mr Chidambaram in the Maxis-Aircel deal, they were supported by members of AIADMK who rushed to the Well raising slogans.

The din forced Ms Kumar to adjourn the House for an hour till noon.

Rajya Sabha witnessed similar scenes soon after Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu (Congress) took oath and the House mourned the death of former member Patitpaban Pradhan.

BJP and AIADMK members, displaying copies of a local English daily which carried a report on the Home Minister's alleged role in the telecom deal, shouted slogans demanding resignation of Chidambaram.

Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) said he has given a notice for suspension of Question Hour to raise the issue of "US interference" in India's internal affairs. "They are dictating our oil imports," he said.

Chairman Hamid Ansari asked members not to display newspapers and to resume their places so that Question Hour could be taken up. "You can't be heard," he said, as Sitaram Yechuri (CPI-M) stood up to make a submission. "I can't hear anything. You take it up at appropriate time," Mr Ansari remarked.

M Venkiah Naidu (BJP) said Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley wanted to make a statement. But Mr  Ansari said "he hasn't asked for the floor."

As members shouted "Chidambaram istifa do (Chidambaram resign)", he adjourned the House for 10 minutes.

When the House reassembled, Mr Ansari welcomed a parliamentary delegation from Saudi Arabia seated in the special box.

Soon, BJP and AIADMK members were on their feet shouting slogans against Mr Chidambaram and the government. Mr Ansari then adjourned the House till noon.

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