New Delhi:  In a major blow to Haj pilgrims, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Union government to gradually reduce Haj subsidy and abolish it completely in 10 years.

A division bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai said, "We hold that this policy (giving subsidies to Haj pilgrims) is best done away with."

The apex court passed the order after hearing a special leave petition (SLP) filed by Union of India against the verdict of Mumbai High Court in a case regarding Haj Subsidy and Haj quota.

The government had earlier told the top court that the Haj subsidy had been provided mainly to unburden pilgrims from the higher fares, which is imposed by the Airlines during the Haj period due to certain regulations imposed by the Saudi Arabian Authorities.

The Haj subsidy is an airfare subsidy given to Indian Muslim Haji pilgrims. Pilgrims applying through the Haj Committee of India are offered the concessionary fare. The Government of India pays the subsidy to Air India.

(Agencies)

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