New Delhi, March 13: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the earmarking of an "exclusive quota" for Haj pilgrims aged 70 and above and preference being given to pilgrims in the age group of 65 to 69 years who have already applied for the pilgrimage five times or more.
The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A. M. Khanwilkar and Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said that people who have crossed 70 years would get the benefit of a separate exclusive quota and those between the age group of 65 to 69 who have applied five times or more would also get the benefit of the policy decided by the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
".. we direct that the persons who come within the age group of 65 to 69 years and are not successful in going on pilgrimage even once, despite applying for 5th time or more, shall also be covered," the court said in its order.
"We may hasten to add", the court said that " that the people who have crossed the age of 70 years, are, under the policy, entitled to benefit of separate exclusive quota."
The court order came in the course of the hearing of a plea by the Kerala Haj committee seeking more quota for the Haj pilgrimage as it has far more applicants and not many of them can be accommodated.
It has contended that Bihar, which gets more quota for Haj pilgrims, is not able to utilise it as there are not many applicants there.
The court, which ordered the listing of the matter for July 10 for final hearing, was also informed on Tuesday that the Minority Affairs Ministry have taken a decision to cover the pilgrims in the age group of 65 to 69 years, who are fifth time applicants for Haj 2018.
The court was told that 1,965 individual pilgrims - who are 5th timer applicants in the age group of 65 to 69 years - may be accommodated against the additional quota of 3,677 seats allocated to Haj Committee of India subject to their willingness and meeting the criteria.
The court was told that decision to accommodate the elderly people aspiring for the pilgrimage would be "one time special dispensation and may not be treated as precedent for similar dispensation in future".
The one time special dispensation for elderly people "will not apply to co-pilgrims in the same cover (group) not falling under this category", the ministry said.