The Muslim Community in India performs Haj pilgrimage to Mecca every year. To facilitate convenient travel, the Government of India decided to pass a law for setting up the Haj Committee of India. This Committee has been established under the Haj Committee Act of 2002.
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The Haj Committee Act, 2002
The Parliament enacted the Haj Committee Act in 2002 for the setting up the Haj Committee of India, with its headquarters in Mumbai. The Haj Committee is recognised as a juristic person in law that can own property and sue and be sued in its name. The Act has perpetual succession and has a common seal.
Composition of Haj Committee of India
The composition of the Haj Committee is prescribed under Section 4 of the Haj Committee Act. It consists of 23 members. The committee is made by the following members:
- The Committee consists of three nominated Muslim Parliamentarians and two members of the Lok Sabha and one member from the Rajya Sabha. The Speaker of the House appoints the members of the Lok Sabha, and the Chairman of the Upper House appoints the members of the Rajya Sabha.
- Nine other members are elected from various states. Three of these members are elected from the states sending the largest number of pilgrims to Haj in the preceding three years.
- The Committee consists of four bureaucrats as ex-officio members appointed from the persons holding an office within the rank of Joint Secretary under the Government of India.
- The Committee would consist of two women members, of whom one has to be a Shia Muslim, and three members with special knowledge of Muslim law. One of these three members should be a Shia Muslim.
- The Committee consists of two members with special knowledge of finance, public administration, education, or social work and one among these two members should be a Shia Muslim.
The Committee would elect its own Chairperson and Vice Chairperson from among its members in the first meeting. The term of the members is 3 years but the Central Government can extend it for an additional period of one year.
Duties of the Committee
The duties of the Committee are listed under Section 9 of the Act. The Committee ensures the welfare of the pilgrims and prepares the annual Haj plan with the approval of the Central Government. The committee makes travelling and accommodation arrangements for the pilgrims and helps them in distress and coordinates with air travel agencies or railways to facilitate smooth travel operations for the pilgrims.
The Haj Committee provides information about Haj to pilgrims and organises orientation and training programs for the pilgrims. The Committee helps the pilgrims with travel, accommodation, vaccines, and foreign exchange.
As per Section 36, if the Committee defaults in performing its duties or is perceived by the Central government as unable to perform its obligations, then the Central Government may supersede the Committee.
Working of the Committee
The Haj Committee should mandatorily meet at least three times a year. The quorum of the meetings is one-third of the total number of members. The Haj Committee is organised into two standing Committees presided over by the Chairperson. These standing Committees look after affairs such as finances. Moreover, the Haj Committee can also constitute sub-committees to look after specific tasks.
Finances of the Haj Committee
The Haj Committee of India raises finances by charging a fee for Haj registration and the issue of Haj passes. The Central and the state government loans some funds to the Committee. The Committee also invests its funds, which are an alternate source of income for the Committee.
These funds are credited to a separate fund maintained by the Committee known as the Haj Fund. The Haj Committee uses this fund to satisfy its expenses and pay the salary of the Chief Executive Officer and other officials.
Audit of Accounts
The Haj Committee must maintain a proper record of its accounts and prepare an annual statement of accounts per the format prescribed by the Central Government. The auditors appointed by the Union government analyse the reports of the Committee. Once audited, these accounts are sent to the Central Government and subsequently presented before each House of Parliament.
Power to Amend Schedule
The power to amend the Schedule is stated under Section 41 of the Act. The Central government has given them the authority to amend the Schedule. When the schedule is amended, laying the notification amending the Schedule before both Houses of Parliament is necessary.
Power to Make Rules
Section 44 gives the power to the Central Government to make rules related to the election of the members of the Haj Committee, the duties and conditions of the office of the Chairperson and the Vice Chairperson, the re-nomination of the members, maintenance of Committee’s accounts.
The Parliament can modify or nullify the rules by the Central Government.
Power to Solve Problems by the Haj Committee
Section 50 of the Act provides that if any difficulty arises in implementing the Act, then the Central Government may address the problem by passing an order consistent with the Act’s provisions and within 2 years of the commencement of the Act. The order made under Section 50 should be laid before both Houses of Parliament.
State Committees Under the Haj Act
Chapter III of the Act provides for the setting up of State Haj Committees. The states would constitute the State Haj Committees. However, the Central Government may authorise the Haj Committee of one state to look after the pilgrims of another state if the Central Government feels that a separate Haj Committee is optional for the latter state.
Two or more states may agree and decide to have a Joint Haj Committee instead of having separate State Haj Committees.
Composition of the State Haj Committees
The State Haj Committees should consist of 15 members. The composition would be as follows:
- Three Muslim members of Parliament or state legislature
- Three members that have expert knowledge of Muslim law and theology. One of these members must be a Shia Muslim.
- Three Muslim members from local bodies.
- State Wakf Board Chairperson
- Five members from Muslim voluntary organisations. These organisations should be engaged in education, social work.
The State Haj Committee is required to convene at least two times a year. The members of the Committee are appointed for a term of three years. The Committee has to select its own Chairperson from among its members.
The State Haj Committees are also required to maintain proper records of their accounts, which are examined by the auditors appointed by the State Government. These accounts are laid before the State legislature.
India is an inclusive and secular country that does not discriminate on religious grounds. The law provisions for minority religions as well. The Haj Committee Act is an essential piece of legislation that facilitates a smooth journey for Haj pilgrimage. The Haj Committee of India has played a critical role in assisting pilgrims and making travel and accommodation arrangements.
FAQs on Haj Committee Act
Who constitutes the State Haj Committee?
The State Governments establish the Haj Committees for their respective states.
Who is eligible to apply for Haj under the Haj Committee?
All Indian Muslims can apply for Haj to the Haj Committee if they are of sound health and can provide financial expenses for the Haj. Moreover, only Muslims who have not visited Mecca earlier can apply to the Haj Committee.
Who is ineligible to apply for Haj?
Indian Muslims who do not have a valid passport or people who have already gone for Haj once through the Haj Committee are not eligible to apply to the Haj Committee.
Which Ministry is responsible for organising the Haj?
The Haj is conducted under the supervision of the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The administrative control of the Haj Committee of India is with the Ministry of Minority Affairs.