The Calcutta High Court Wednesday refused to interfere in the West Bengal government's decision to give Rs 10,000 each to 28,000 Durga puja committees in the state and said the legislature is the appropriate forum to decide on such expenditure.
An interim stay granted by the court on disbursal of funds stands vacated as the court disposed of the public interest litigation challenging the state government's decision to give funds to the puja committees.
A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta and Justice Sampa Sarkar said the court does not want to interfere in the government's decision to disburse funds to Durga puja committees at this stage.
The legislature is the appropriate forum to decide on expenditure by the state government, it said.
The bench, however, said that the court can interfere in the expenditure by the government at a later stage if and when the scope arises.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta had submitted before the division bench that the funds are to be used for assisting police under its traffic safety campaign and not for any religious purpose.
The petitioner had challenged the government's decision to disburse funds to the tune of Rs 28 crore, claiming it was a dole to puja committees and had no public purpose.
The petitioner also claimed that providing funds to puja committees is a violation of the secular structure of the Constitution.
The state government on Tuesday told the division bench that it cannot interfere in a legislative decision on granting funds to Durga Puja committees.
Dutta told the court that the funds are to be used for assisting police under 'Safe drive save life' campaign of the state government and also for sanitation and public safety.
He said a taxpayer cannot question the modus operandi of expenditure and claimed that this is the prerogative of the legislature.
Senior counsel Saktinath Mukherjee, also appearing for the state, had on Tuesday submitted that the Comptroller and Auditor General can scrutinise expenditure of a government and can also be done by the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislature and the court has no role to play at the stage of expenditure.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior counsel Bikash Bhattacharya questioned whether the state government can expend a single paisa for the "purpose of destroying the secular structure of the Constitution".
The AG submitted before the court the finance department's sanction pursuant to which funds were allotted.
He said the funds were allotted under a new scheme which will be passed in the next state budget.
The interim stay was passed on a PIL by advocate Sourabh Dutta, challenging the programme.
On September 10, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee 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, costing the government an amount of Rs 28 crore.
(With inputs from agencies.)