Centre Bars Differently-abled from Haj Citing Physical Stress
The pilgrimage could be physically demanding & in case of a stampede, disabled people would be more at risk: Centre.
The Centre on Wednesday, 11 April told the Delhi High Court that the bar on differently-abled people from undertaking Haj was retained in the new policy for the annual pilgrimage, as was the practice for the last 30 years, since the journey is physically demanding.
The purpose is also to strictly screen the differently-abled due to instances of such people indulging in begging, which is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Minority Affairs said in an affidavit filed before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar.
The other reasons for the prohibition was that the pilgrimage could be physically demanding, exhausting and in case of a stampede, those differently-abled would be more at risk, it said.
The affidavit, which was filed in response to a PIL against the bar on differently-abled people from performing Haj pilgrimage, further said the prohibitions in the earlier policy for the years 2013-2017, were retained in the new one as it was the practice for the last 30 years.
The ministry, however, said that it was sensitive to the issue raised in the PIL by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, especially in view of the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act of 2016. It added that it has directed the Haj Committee of India (HCoI) to look into the matter, and recommend necessary corrections or amendments in the Haj policy of 2018-2022.
"Haj pilgrimage is physically demanding and involves an arduous journey from one place to another on feet and by various other modes of transport and is to be performed on a foreign land in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the affidavit said.
In the new policy for HCoI pilgrims for 2018-22, there was no change with regard to eligibility criteria and the exact wordings about persons with disability used in previous policy for Haj 2013-17 was retained.The affidavit
"That retaining this provision also needs to be understood in the light of Consular General of India, Jeddah advice in 2012 for strict screening of disabled persons in view of instances of many such people indulging in begging which is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia," it said.
The affidavit also said, "It is because of the difficulties involved in Haj pilgrimage that as per quranic injunction, Haj is not cast upon as a duty for everyone but only on those who have the 'lstatah' (physical and financial capacity)."
"As per prevailing practice for more than 30 years, persons suffering from physical disabilities or suffering from specified diseases have been debarred from applying for pilgrimage through HCoI," it said.
The ministry has emphasised in its response that there was no intention to disrespect or hurt the feelings of any person, by incorporating the said provisions in the Haj policy that bar people suffering from certain serious diseases, or those categorised as disabled.
This provision had been there in the policy since its inception and has been continued in the new policy as such.The affidavit
The ministry also said that since it has initiated steps to redress the issue, the plea has become infructuous and unwarranted.
The petition stated that those affected with polio, congestive cardiac, tuberculosis, respiratory ailment, acute coronary insufficiency, coronary thrombosis, mental disorder, infectious leprosy, AIDS or any other communicable disease or disability also cannot take undertake Haj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.
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