The hearing on three public interest litigations (PIL) challenging the legality of the state government’s decision to give Rs 60,000 to each of the 40,000-odd registered community Durga pujas ended in Calcutta High Court on Thursday.
The division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj, which is hearing the matter, has yet to pronounce the verdict.
The petitioners have demanded a stay on the decision as the West Bengal government is facing a severe funds crunch.
The government had earlier made it clear that it was in no position to give dearness allowances to its employees on a par with the central government rates, despite a high court order to do so, because of a cash crunch.
After hearing all parties to the Durga Puja dole case, the division bench decided to deliver its judgment later.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya opposed the government’s decision and said the formal order was invalid as it was signed by a deputy secretary.
The state’s advocate-general, S.N. Mookherjee, contended that Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) had inscribed Kolkata’s Durga Puja on its list of intangible heritage and the money was for the clubs to celebrate that and conduct other social activities.
The Chief Justice asked Mookherjee how the government intended to ensure proper utilisation of the funds.
The advocate-general said the clubs submit audited reports of the amount they spend and obtain utilisation certificates.
Appearing for some of the puja committees, a lawyer said the organisers of big pujas, whose budgets run into several crores of rupees, should not be eligible for the dole.